State, FEMA bringing more homes to Letcher’s flood survivors

Published 2:28 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

BY TOM LATEK

Kentucky Today

Kentucky state government is teaming up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring additional housing to flood survivors in Letcher County, one of the most heavily impacted counties from the July 2022 floods, which killed around 40 people.

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The four-acre tract of land near Whitesburg was donated by the Letcher County Fiscal Court and will be known as The Cottages at Thompson Branch.

“This is a first-of-its-kind partnership with local, state and federal groups coming together to support this new, safe, high-ground community and 10 families who lost their homes in the historic floods,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “The creative approach puts resources to work quickly and also creates a beautiful, resilient home.”

Under FEMA’s Direct Housing and Sales and Donations programs, 10 manufactured homes will be available to survivors for purchase.  After that, money from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund will help them prepare for long-term occupancy by adding a foundation, exterior touches such as porches, shutters and landscaping that together add beauty and resilience to the structures.

An Appalachian Regional Commission grant and Eastern Kentucky SAFE funds will be used to make the infrastructure permanent, after which FEMA will start moving the first structures into the area and eligible families will be contacted with additional program details.

“The commonwealth and FEMA are collaborating on a housing option that will allow survivors of the devastating floods in Eastern Kentucky the chance to move into a new manufactured home on land outside of a high-risk flood zone,” said FEMA’s Colt Hagmaier.  “These individuals will be able to create a new life on higher ground so whenever it rains, they can rest easy knowing they are in a safe, secure location. Imagine what a difference that can make for a flood survivor.”

This is the third high-ground building site for those who lost their homes to the flooding.  Previous ones were announced for Knott and Perry counties.  Each provides safe, affordable housing, outside the flood plain, including much-needed infrastructure and community buildings that can uplift the entire area.

“We made a promise to Eastern Kentucky that we would be here until every life and structure is rebuilt,” Beshear stated.  “The key to our vision is getting residents into new, safe homes. That’s going to take a variety of efforts, both from the state government, private companies and nonprofits.”