Beshear asks Obama for disaster declaration for Eastern Kentucky

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear asked President Barack Obama Wednesday to declare parts of Eastern Kentucky a disaster that were damaged by severe storms last month.

Beshear specifically asked for federal loans to help individuals and businesses and to provide unemployment assistance, crisis counseling and public assistance.

"Time and again, my administration has worked hard to provide assistance to struggling communities around the state after severe storms, and this time is no different," Beshear said in a release. "If this request is granted, we will receive financial assistance to help them repair and rebuild their communities."

Seven counties have requested public assistance: Bell, Breathitt, Knott, Knox, Lee, Magoffin, and Perry.

Five counties have requested assistance for individuals and households: Bell, Breathitt, Knox, Lee, and Perry.

Under a major disaster declaration, local governments, state agencies, small businesses, certain private non-profits (such as electrical cooperatives and water districts), individuals and households would be able to request financial assistance from the federal government to clean up, repair and replace property destroyed or damaged by the storms.

Severe thunderstorms rolled through several Eastern Kentucky counties last month, causing flash flooding, hail, and high winds which caused damage to public and private property. One death was attributed to the storms.

Beshear immediately requested joint federal, state, and local surveys of the damaged areas.

Their estimates, which are the foundation for any disaster declaration request, were completed this week.

Evaluation teams estimated public sector damages are in excess of $5.7 million. Teams also identified more than 350 homes and 65 businesses which were heavily damaged or destroyed.

This is the second major disaster declaration Beshear has requested this year.

Severe storms and flooding across the state in May caused evacuations and significant property damage, particularly in Western Kentucky.

If this latest request is approved, it will be the state's 10th federally declared disaster since 2008.