KNOXVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today applauded the “Volunteer” spirit of Tennessee communities in eagerly responding to the needs of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, pledging he will do everything possible to ensure they are reimbursed for their generosity.
“Tennessee communities have received planeload after planeload of evacuees, opening the doors of shelters, churches and schools in the single largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War,” Bredesen said. “We will be clear and persistent with the federal government in our insistence that the cities and counties of Tennessee should receive the federal reimbursement they deserve for their efforts.”
In a lunch meeting with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Bredesen said each department and agency of state government has begun itemizing all direct and indirect costs of providing services to evacuees, and encouraged local governments to do the same.
“We will have hard numbers and data to present to the federal government when it comes time for them to pay the bill,” Bredesen said. “This is especially important when it comes to education and the services we’re providing to students – both K-12 and higher education. We must have a mechanism in place to ensure our communities are reimbursed for these costs.”
On September 5, President Bush granted Bredesen’s request for an emergency declaration for the entire state as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The declaration means that state government and its local counterparts are eligible for 100 percent federal reimbursement for immediate relief efforts and expanded services for evacuees.
Bredesen also announced today that the Department of Human Services (DHS) will begin offering a child care assistance program to help evacuees get back on their feet, a service federal officials have already approved for reimbursement.
New information on the state’s disaster assistance effort
Family Assistance has been provided to 1,709 families, with 4,169 electronic benefit cards distributed through DHS. More than 100 people have requested federal Medicaid assistance. Medicaid costs will be billed to the home states of evacuees who seek federal Medicaid assistance in Tennessee.
2,880 evacuee students are registered in grades K-12 in public schools – 307 in Davidson County, 104 in Hamilton County, 84 in Knox County and 1,215 in Memphis/Shelby County. In addition, 390 evacuees have enrolled in the state’s private schools. The Department of Education has also issued 15 emergency teaching certificates.
A total of 547 students from closed Gulf Coast institutions have registered for classes at Tennessee colleges and universities. The University of Tennessee system has admitted 108 – 21 at UT Chattanooga, 85 at UT Knoxville, and two at UT Memphis. All nine state universities have admitted at least two students. Tennessee residents represent about four of every 10 new admissions.
The Department of Labor has processed 1,553 unemployment insurance claims with Louisiana and another 183 with Mississippi. The department has taken 285 job services applications and is conducting six job fairs.
Officials also continue to steer evacuees to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which can be done by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or visiting www.fema.gov. More than 9,000 people or families have registered as evacuees with FEMA, while the total number of evacuees in Tennessee is estimated at 20,000. Most of the evacuees came to the state on their own, but should still take advantage of the services offered through FEMA registration.
As of Thursday, there are 589 evacuees in TEMA shelters, with an estimated 2,500 in shelters across Tennessee. FEMA has established a toll-free Hurricane Katrina hotline to accept public contributions of goods and services to assist victims, at 1-800-440-6728.
FEMA also has activated the National Emergency Resource Registry to coordinate donations from businesses willing to assist with major needs such as housing, transportation and supplies. It is able to match donors to specific needs in the affected area.