With the historic flooding that has devastated downtown Beattyville, Kentucky, Americans Helping Americans® is stepping up with $85,000 in grant funding to assist dozens of families and an additional $50,000 to assist numerous small businesses in the downtown area which have been forced to close down.
Lee County Judge/Executive Chuck Caudill Jr. was informed earlier this week by Americans Helping Americans® Executive Director Cameron Krizek that substantial assistance was on the way.
“It was actually overwhelming,” said Caudill. “All I could say is, ‘Wow!’”
The county has established a recovery fund to assist families and individuals whose homes were damaged in the flooding to help cover the expenses of cleaning out the mud and muck caused by the flooding.
For those whose homes sustained damage that is beyond repair and considered a total loss, the fund will go to provide rental assistance until they are back on their feet.
Caudill said that the county government will be partnering with the local Kiwanis Club to determine who in the community is most in need of financial assistance, such as between those whose homes are currently inhabitable versus those who may only need a new hot water heater.
Through the partnership, county officials will be working in the coming days and weeks to develop the best solution for each family and address each one on a case-by-case basis.
So far, already 85 households have been identified which include families with children, couples, and the elderly and disabled.
Caudill noted that one mentally-disabled 60-year-old man who is well-known throughout the community as a sort of “little brother” to everyone and had been living with a family member as a caregiver has been moved into an adult living facility where he is adjusting well and better off now than in his previous living situation.
The community members, and many from outside the community including church groups from throughout the region, have already begun volunteering to help clean out homes, provide meals, and more for those displaced.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by their generosity,” he said.
And by providing this emergency grant funding for those who have become displaced, Caudill says, “You’re filling that gap for so many people living in doubt.”
Teresa Mays, director of Beattyville Main Street, which has formed a partnership with Beattyville/Lee County Tourism called the Downtown Beattyville Alliance and established the “Love Local, Small Business Flood Relief Fund, said that 45 of the 50 downtown businesses are closed due to flooding.
The funds collected, along with the grant funding to be provided by Americans Helping Americans®, will be used to help business owners purchase cleanup supplies such as garbage bags, brooms, mops, garbage cans, cleaning solutions, and other expenses related to the flooding.
Within hours of the flooding, the business alliance provided each of the businesses with $100 to help them get started on the cleanup.
“It was a small amount, but we gave what we had,” said Teresa.
Among the businesses most impacted was the local, family-owned department store, Rose Brothers, which lost all of its clothing inventory, and will need to have drywall ripped out and electrical rewiring.
A used-car dealership, which has been in business for 50 years lost several cars that had been used only for parts, but thankfully its newer used cars which were for sale were saved.
A locally-owned pharmacy lost an estimated more than $300,000 in inventory, and the local newspaper office was flooded losing its computers, which can be replaced, but also much of the historical documents in the office which cannot.
The newspaper owners, Teresa commented, “have spent their lifetimes supporting the community.”
And the only “sit-down” restaurant in town was also flooded, destroying its kitchen and dining area.
“They lost everything,” she said.
Teresa also noted because the downtown area is located in a floodplain that the vast majority of small business owners could not afford the cost of flood insurance, but that the last flood in Beattyville had been in 1957 and was not as devastating as the flooding which occurred this month.
“We got a 100-year-flood 30 years early.”
She said the business alliance has already conducted a survey of the damaged businesses and is expecting to provide grants of up to $2,000 each, but it is hard to speculate at this point how long it will be before they will be able to get back on their feet.
Per the agreement with Americans Helping Americans®, each of the grant recipients will sign a moral obligation promise to reopen their business on Main Street in downtown Beattyville.
Judge/Executive Caudill noted that not only will the grant funding for small businesses benefit the business owners themselves, but will also benefit the town and county as well by retaining its tax base and providing the local governments with tax revenue as they reopen.
Teresa pointed out that downtown Beattyville is the heart of the community where local residents gather to attend concerts, car shows and provides other opportunities for neighbors to get together throughout the year.
While, of course, at this point it is difficult to see any “silver lining” in the devastating flood, but in the long-term with the repairs and rehabilitation of the buildings, they will be upgraded and better protected in the future.
In addition, she feels that residents will come to appreciate their local businesses even more in the realization of how important they are to the overall economic health of the community and will patronize them as they reopen “now more than ever.
“That’s what I hope comes out of this.”
And, as for the support from Americans Helping Americans®, “You cannot imagine how much this is going to be appreciated.
“The grant funding will give hope to the business owners who may be thinking of throwing their hands up in the air and saying ‘forget it.’
“This is going to make a great difference…it’s going to be the pick-me-up these businesses really need.”