Press Releases

Disaster Declaration for Upper East TN Floods

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 17, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has granted his disaster declaration request for Washington and its surrounding counties after severe storms and flash flooding occurred Aug. 5, 2012.

The declaration includes Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties, and an SBA disaster declaration makes homeowners and businesses affected by the disaster eligible for low-interest loans.

“This is good news and will provide a measure of relief and recovery to the individuals whose homes and businesses were damaged earlier this month in Upper East Tennessee,” Haslam said.

The interest rates for homeowners without credit elsewhere will be 1.688 percent. Loans for homeowners with credit elsewhere will be 3.375 percent. Interest rates for businesses will be four percent for those without credit elsewhere and six percent for businesses that have credit elsewhere.

Additionally, the SBA will open a temporary office on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, in the, Washington County Courthouse, 100 E. Main St. in Jonesborough, to help homeowners and businesses with the disaster loan process. More information on SBA disaster loans is at:

On Aug. 5, a severe storm front moved across Tennessee cause numerous severe straight line winds and flash flooding, which continued through Aug. 6, 2012. The following weekend, teams from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, SBA and local emergency management officials conducted a preliminary damage assessment in Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties. In Washington County, more than 25 uninsured homes and businesses experienced damage in excess of 40 percent of their replacement value. This damage was enough to qualify the county for an SBA disaster declaration.

Those affected have until Oct. 15, 2012, to apply for relief from the physical damage and until May 16, 2013, to apply for relief from economic injury.

Business and Economy NewsTracker Tax and Budget

More Revenues Means More Spending

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday his conversations with legislators “have been very positive” regarding his budget proposal that will be addressed head-on in the next few days.

Haslam, capitalizing on a recent increase in revenues, unveiled an amendment this week to his original $30.2 billion budget plan announced in March. It includes $71.3 million in disaster relief funds after recent storms and flooding.

The state recently announced net positive growth of 1.7 percent in revenue over last year for April, taking in $1.264 billion, which was $600,000 more than budgeted. It was the 13th consecutive month of positive growth.

Based on new estimates of increased revenues, Haslam has filed a supplemental appropriations amendment that includes the disaster relief and restored funds for various health-related programs.

“Everybody likes it when you can spend more. We were going to have to make some cuts, particularly some of the TennCare cuts. None of us liked it. I didn’t like the mental health cuts myself,” Haslam said Tuesday. “So having the extra money, almost everyone is going to see that as a good thing.”

The funding priorities in the amendment listed by the administration include:

  • $4.7 million for the Department of Intellectual Disabilities Services restoring residential rates.
  • $1.9 million for mental health services for Northeast Tennessee through the Mountain State Health Alliance.
  • $8.5 million to restore rate reductions for TennCare mental health providers.
  • $5 million for the Memphis Regional Medical Center, Nashville General Hospital and Jellico Community Hospital.
  • $3.5 million for smoking cessation help in TennCare.
  • $6.9 million for programs at Meharry Medical College.
  • $220,000 for debt service on construction bonds for a $22.6 million, 108-bed state veterans’ home in Clarksville.

Haslam said Tuesday he believes an approach of being open about funding has been beneficial.

“I think the fact we’ve been up front all along with, ‘Here’s the money we have,’ when the extra money came in, we were very specific about what it was and what we were going to spend it on,” he said.

Haslam said the biggest financial surprise handed the state was money owed to Tennessee from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

The amendment anticipates reimbursement of roughly $82 million in Medicaid funding errors. It is projected to cover $15.7 million for nursing home funding; $7.9 million for TennCare services including lab, X-ray, dental and transportation services; and $3.4 million for home health provider services. Meanwhile, $15.9 million for capital outlays in higher education are expected.

Other priorities in the budget amendment listed by the administration are $19 million for lottery scholarships in summer school; $5 million for the University of Memphis to operate the Lambuth campus in Jackson; $21 million for building maintenance; and $16.5 million for what the administration calls “a potential major economic development expansion project,” without elaboration.

Haslam reiterated warnings this week, however, about non-recurring funds, saying the budget includes $160 million in non-recurring money that will not be available next year.

Press Releases

More Disaster Declaration Requests for Obama from Haslam

Press Release from Bill Haslam, Governor of the State of Tennessee, 7 May 2011:

Requests Assistance for Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, Montgomery, Obion, Shelby and Stewart counties

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has asked President Obama to declare 15 counties as federal disaster areas due to a series of severe storms, straight-line winds, flash flooding and the record flooding of the Mississippi River, beginning on April 19, 2011.

Should this request for assistance be granted, Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, Montgomery, Obion, Shelby and Stewart counties would have access to varying levels of federal assistance programs.

Haslam may request other counties as damage assessments are completed.

“We have many fine first responders, local leaders and state agencies who have been engaged for many days making sure we can protect and save lives, and protect property, during many severe weather and flooding emergencies,” Haslam said. “Federal assistance would help people restore their lives and help local governments rebuild their infrastructure.”

On April 26, Haslam declared a state of emergency as a precautionary move because of the severe weather and forecast of Mississippi River flooding. Haslam was briefed April 29 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the storms and their effect on water levels along the Mississippi River system, and he toured the levees in Northwest Tennessee with emergency management officials and local mayors May 3.

In the request, Haslam seeks Individual Assistance for Dyer, Lake, Obion, Shelby and Stewart counties, to include the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Food Stamp Program, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Legal Aid, and Small Businesses Administration disaster loans. The request also seeks assistance through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Haslam also seeks Public Assistance for all the counties in the request for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and rebuilding and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, utilities and recreational facilities.

The Department of Military, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment & Conservation, Department of Health (EMS), Department of Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Safety, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Civil Air Patrol, American Red Cross and Tennessee Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters are responding to the current flooding emergency and providing protective services to help local efforts.

Heavy snow-pack melting and above average rainfall in the Midwest raised the Mississippi River to record flood levels along Tennessee’s western border at the end of April. The rising Mississippi River added to flooding already occurring in many middle and west Tennessee counties due to severe storms and tornadoes in mid-April.

Additional information about state and federal assistance for affected counties will be released as details become available.

Damage assessments continue in East Tennessee following the storms and tornadoes that impacted that part of the state last week. Additional counties are expected to be added to the initial declaration from May 2 as those assessments continue.

For more updates regarding the state’s response, visit the TEMA website at

Press Releases

Democrats, Haslam Push Tax-Relief Extension for Flood Victims

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, Feb. 15, 2011:

Bill would extend previous sales tax break to April 30

NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats were joined by Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday in recommending that tax relief for May 2010 flood victims be extended through the end of April.

“Many of our hardest-hit constituents were still rebuilding and repairing their houses by the time the original tax break ended,” said Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville), the lead sponsor of the extension. “This extension gives them the chance to turn their houses into their homes again.”

Senate Bill 6 would exempt flood victims registered with FEMA from sales tax on home appliances, building materials and large furniture items, up to a cap of $2,500. That tax cap would cover roughly $27,000 of purchases. Those who have already taken advantage of the tax relief would still be eligible, as long as they have not hit the cap.

The May 2010 floods ravaged Middle and West Tennessee, killing 26 people and causing more than $2 billion in damage in the Nashville area alone. Cleanup efforts are still ongoing in some communities.

“Less than a year ago, much of our state was underwater,” said Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), the bill’s cosponsor. “We haven’t forgotten that our neighbors are still recovering and still need our help.”

The bill passed unanimously through the Tax Subcommittee of the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday with the governor’s recommendation. Two similar bills also passed, but bill sponsors said they would likely support Senate Bill 6, pending action in the House. The House version of the bill is in a subcommittee.

Senator Douglas Henry represents portions of Davidson County. Senator Lowe Finney represents Madison, Carroll and Gibson Counties.

Press Releases

Federal Farm Assistance Announced for 16 TN Counties

State of Tennessee Press release, Dec. 11, 2009:

Five More Counties Requested for Primary Disaster Designation

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved his request for federal farm assistance for 16 Tennessee counties due to excessive rain and flooding that occurred in September and October.

“Farming is challenging enough without the added uncertainty of weather. This disaster designation will be important for helping farmers who have experienced significant crop losses this year due to heavy rains,” said Bredesen. “I’m pleased that USDA has responded so promptly to my request.”

Bredesen made the request in a Nov. 23 letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The 16 counties designated as primary natural disaster areas include: Bradley, Chester, Cumberland, Hamilton, Hardeman, Lauderdale, Macon, McMinn, McNairy, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, Shelby, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson.

The designation makes farmers in these counties eligible to apply for assistance, including emergency loans and supplemental farm payments, through their local USDA Farm Service Agency. Also qualifying as secondary, adjoining disaster counties are: Bledsoe, Cannon, Clay, Crockett, Davidson, DeKalb, Dyer, Fayette, Fentress, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Loudon, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Morgan, Putnam, Roane, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Sumner, Tipton, Van Buren and White.

Bredesen today also requested a primary disaster designation for five more East and Middle Tennessee counties. Those counties include: Claiborne, Cocke, Rutherford, Sevier and Union.

Farmers in affected counties have reported crop losses ranging from 20 to 50 percent for major crops including corn, soybeans, cotton and tobacco. Some counties reported receiving record rainfall of as much as 10 to 12 inches during what are normally the driest months of the year.

Although USDA is projecting significantly higher yields for most major Tennessee crops as compared to the previous two drought years, the heavy rains have hurt both crop yields and quality because of rotting, mold and other disease problems. Farmers have also reported losses for hay, pumpkins and other specialty crops.

Statewide, harvest this year was three to four weeks behind the five-year average due to the unusually wet weather according to the Tennessee Field Office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. For the latest information on the state’s crop harvest, visit here.