President Joe Biden declared late Wednesday that a major disaster in Kentucky occurred due to severe winter storms from February 8 through February 19. The move authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide public assistance to local governments in the affected areas and hazard mitigation funding for the entire state.
“This declaration will make sure Kentuckians and our communities have the necessary resources to rebuild after the devastating ice storm that hit in February,” Governor Andy Beshear said on Thursday. “Thank you to President Biden and FEMA for their assistance, and thank you to the many state and local agencies and organizations who are leading the recovery and rebuilding efforts in our hard-hit communities.”
State, local and federal representatives project damages from the storms will exceed $30 million. According to the governor’s office, 59 counties and 38 cities issued local state of emergency orders. Eligible local governments and nonprofits may access federal funding on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and to repair or replace facilities in the designated areas. The entire commonwealth may access federal funding on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures.
The federal declaration authorizes public assistance for the counties of Bath, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Nelson, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe. The area includes 94 cities with more than 295,000 residents. Ongoing damage assessments may lead state officials to request adding other counties to the declaration.
FEMA provides no less than 75% of eligible costs through its public assistance funding; however, the state may also fund a portion of the required match. Some eligible expenditures include debris removal, providing shelter or supplies, and utility line repairs. City officials interested in applying for the cost-share program need to contact their county’s emergency management director to get started. Only cities in one of the 44 designated counties above may access the Public Assistance Program.
All Kentucky cities may seek assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. FEMA’s hazard mitigation assistance provides funding for eligible measures that prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards. Cities can use this funding to retrofit existing buildings and utility infrastructure, improve drainage, stabilize slopes, and develop hazard mitigation plans, among other activities. City officials seeking this funding must go through their county’s emergency management director.