Feds to foot more of bill in Cherokee storm clean-up

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will receive more federal aid than originally promised after January’s rainstorms, flooding and mudslides.

In March, the Eastern Band became the first tribe to garner the Presidential Declaration of Disaster, which made it eligible for disaster relief assistance from the federal government. Previously, the tribe had to go through the state to receive any federal help.

In the declaration, the federal government committed to reimbursing 75 percent of the cost to repair any damages related to the four-day storms. However, the pledge has since been increased to 90 percent.

The estimated total federal contribution is $4.9 million, according to FEMA. Based on that, repair costs will come in close to $5.5 million. As of May 31, the government has paid out just under $3 million toward the tribe’s response and recovery costs. However, under the new reimbursement percentage, that number will increase by nearly $600,000.

Although the landslide on U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most prominent damage cause by the January downpours, it was not on tribal lands. The Federal Highway Administration paid for its repair.

— By Caitlin Bowling

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