Damage assessments from the Christmas morning bomb blast on Second Avenue continues to come in less severe than originally feared, particularly to underground infrastructure.
On Friday, Metro Water Services director Scott Potter said the city will likely avoid a mass excavation of the street because there’s really just one cracked sewer pipe.
The only downside is that the reduced damage will limit federal assistance. It would have to top $9.8 million to be declared a major federal disaster, says Ella Mathews from the Office of Congressman Jim Cooper, who is coordinating the federal response.
“Good news, we have not had that much damage,” she says. “The bad news is that really limits us on the amount of assistance that can come through FEMA.”
She notes that the assistance for individuals that would come from a major disaster declaration would only help people who weren’t covered by other insurance.
The Trump administration did grant help from FEMA 10 days after it was requested by Gov. Bill Lee. That will help fund firefighting costs and safety inspections. However, the request for funding to help with debris removal has not yet been granted and is still being pursued with the Biden administration.
However, there is other federal assistance. People displaced and property owners suffering damage were granted $2 million in aid from the Victims of Crime Act, which is available through an application process here.
As of Friday afternoon, 316 applicants had come in — 27 from businesses and 289 from residents and workers. The majority are seeking help with rent and utility payments. Many asked for food assistance. And two dozen are seeking therapy.
Catholic Charities of Tennessee is managing the aid and says all applicants have been contacted, and that the 70 most urgent cases are being worked on now.
Rebuilding yet to begin
At an update meeting on Friday, Metro Codes and Planning officials said property owners have mostly gotten their permits to stabilize structures. But no demolition is being approved at this point.
The Metro Historical Commission will have to sign off on most of the rebuilding or demolition, given the overlay that covers the historic district.
The head of Metro Codes, Bill Herbert, says his office has tried to streamline the process. They’re also asking the Metro Council to waive any permit fees associated with rebuilding, as they did for March 2020 tornado survivors.
Tony Gonzalez contributed to this report.