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UPDATE: This article was updated at 5:05 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020, to include a comment from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

NASHVILLE — President Donald Trump on Friday issued a Tennessee disaster declaration freeing up federal assistance for Hamilton, Bradley and six other counties slammed April 12 and April 13 by heavy storms and tornadoes that killed four Southeast Tennesseans.

Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement that while the "deadly storm has passed for our east and southeast Tennessee neighbors, now those impacted can receive much-needed help to rebuild their lives and their communities."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican who represents all or parts of six of the eight counties impacted by the severe weather, thanked Trump for his quick action.

"Our community has come together in the face of unimaginable devastation, and I am glad President Trump is standing behind us and supporting us on our road to recovery from this tragic storm," said Fleischmann, a House Appropriations Committee member who worked with administration officials during the approval process.

The White House issued a statement saying the president's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bradley and Hamilton that bore the brunt of much of the damage.

The federal aid also supplements state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding.

Individual assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of a disaster.

The White House news release also said federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work as well as repair or replacement of facilities damaged in the affected counties: Bradley, Campbell, Hamilton, Marion, Monroe, Polk, Scott and Washington.

Hamilton County alone is estimated to have sustained several hundred million dollars in damage.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Federal Emergency Management Administrator Pete Gaynor has named Myra M. Shird as the coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and more counties may be designated for assistance after assessments are completed.

People in Bradley and Hamilton counties who may be eligible for FEMA's individual assistance can begin the application process at disasterassistance.gov. FEMA also provides a Disaster Assistance Helpline, 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585, to help individuals with questions about the application process, including how to apply.

More information on FEMA's IA program is at fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance.

According to the Lee administration, in addition to causing deaths and injuries, the storms left 85,000 without power, damaged or destroyed more than 550 residential properties and affected another 2,300 structures.

Tennessee remains in a state of emergency and the State Emergency Operations Center in Nashville continues to operate in support of recovery from the March 2020 tornadoes in Middle Tennessee, the state's COVID-19 outbreak, and the Easter Sunday tornadoes in southeast Tennessee.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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