A new program unveiled by Mayor Karl Dean on Tuesday will seek to fill in the financial gap thousands of Nashville flood victims are staring at even after receiving federal aid to repair their homes.
The initiative, dubbed “We Are Home,” will be led by The Housing Fund, a Nashville-based nonprofit that’s been working with the mayor’s flood recovery team. The plan is to build a pool of $50 million, created partly by the flood donations of private citizens, to help a projected 2,000 Nashvillians in the form of low-interest loans and grants. Officials say they have no timetable on the life span of the program.
“While the federal government was quick to respond and has been a constant presence in our city since, the reality is that the maximum benefits available are simply not enough for many homeowners,” Dean said.
Dean had previously discussed the program, but hadn’t released final details until Tuesday. Flood victims can sit down with officials beginning July 7 to discuss the level assistance available to them under the program.
Homeowners who apply for assistance will be considered according to their financial situation and home repair needs. Applicants must first apply through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Metro officials are using a three-tiered approach to determine the type of aid available for a flood victim: First, applicants will be offered a 4 percent interest loan, worth up to $100,000, to be paid back from five to 20 years. If an owner cannot repay a loan, a grant capped at $10,000 would be offered. If a gap still remains after the grant, then a 0 percent interest loan worth up to $20,000 is available to some homeowners.
“This program is designed to fit with FEMA and SBA, not duplicate it,” said Loretta Owens, executive director of The Housing Fund. “We tried to design a system that will meet owners where they are.”
But in a rare, unscripted moment at Dean’s announcement, a Bellevue flood victim stood up to share her frustration in navigating the system, suggesting the new program could create only more headaches.
“I’m taking time off of my job, that I need to be on, to try to do all this,” said Cindy Lockhart, who is trying to rebuild after her house on Goodpasture Terrace sustained significant damage. “So, what ya’ll are asking us to do is to work harder and to spend more time. It’s frustrating for us.”
Others are welcoming to the new plan with open arms, however. Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who represents the heavily hit Bordeaux neighborhood, said officials have already talked to several victims in his district to size up their needs.
“I think this program is going to help dramatically,” Matthews said. “Several people in my district, we already know their gap is going to be $5,000 to $15,000. This is going to help them fill in some of that gap.”
The first chunk of the program’s $50 million pool came in the form of two federal grants totaling $5.1 million that were approved two weeks ago by Metro Council. Another $40 million is it to be carved out of a still-pending federal supplemental appropriations bill that still must clear the U.S. House of Representatives.
The hope is for the remaining $5 million to come from private donors. Regions Bank has already pledged $1 million to the new program, with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the chief collector of Nashville’s flood donations, delivering another $900,000.
“We want to use the funds that were entrusted to us by these thousands of donors responsibly,” said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation. “We want to make sure that they have an impact and that they make a difference.”