Tennessee Receives Federal Grant to Assist in Wildfire Recovery

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 | 5:38pm

$5.8M to Create Disaster Relief Employment for Workers Affected by Sevier County Wildfire

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) commissioner, Burns Phillips, announced the department has received a $5,824,000 grant from the United States Department of Labor to assist in recovery efforts following a wildfire in Sevier County last November.

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a National Dislocated Worker Grant, with $2 million released initially, to create disaster relief employment for individuals to assist in clean-up and recovery efforts following the wildfire that started on November 28, 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The wildfire spread to nearby Gatlinburg in Sevier County and killed 14 people and damaged 2,460 structures, 70 of which were businesses.  Hundreds of workers were dislocated as a result of the wildfire.

“The department will receive the initial funding upfront, the remaining monies will be used as needed to assist in the recovery effort,” said Commissioner Phillips.  “My team will work with leaders of the Local Workforce Development Area in Sevier County to identify which local programs will best utilize these funds.”

TDLWD applied for federal assistance in weeks following the wildfire. The federal grant is expected to help approximately 200 Tennessee workers.

 “This will allow the state of Tennessee to not only put people back to work, but it will also accelerate the clean up and recovery process in an area of our state that saw so much devastation late last year,” Commissioner Phillips said.

Within 24 hours after the start of the wildfire, TDLWD enacted an emergency response plan for dislocated workers.  A day later resources and staff from across the state traveled to Sevier County and began helping dislocated workers apply for unemployment benefits, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance claims. 

The department had six of its mobile American Job Centers at a disaster assistance center located in Pigeon Forge and Newport.  Hundreds of workers utilized the additional resources for more than two weeks.  The department’s increased presence in Sevier County continued in Gatlinburg until January 17, 2017.  Just over 1,000 workers dislocated by the wildfire are now receiving unemployment benefits.

Dislocated workers can still receive assistance from the American Job Center located at 1216 Graduate Drive in Sevierville.

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Labor & Workforce Development