Tennessee still underwater, lawmakers continue to wait for disaster declaration process

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Tennessee continues to struggle with flooding and lawmakers in Washington say they are still pushing for federal assistance. The delegation says it is still waiting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to come through.

Governor Bill Lee (R-TN) made the request for a major disaster declaration in March following the flooding. As parts of the state remain underwater, the Tennessee delegation on Capitol Hill says it has to wait for bureaucracy to play out.

"I should've been able to say, 'Hey, this is a disaster. Get down here and help fix this.' But, um, you know, it's federal government so they're not moving at a very fast pace," said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN).

The lawmakers are looking for help under what is called the Stafford Act, a law that gives the president power to declare the flooding a major disaster, in turn providing affected areas with extra funding. Lee wants help for 58 counties in Tennessee. Burchett says there is only so much he can do to get federal resources for his state.

There are five steps that need to take place between a disaster and a presidential disaster declaration. One of the final steps is FEMA reviewing Lee's request and submitting its recommendation to President Donald Trump. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) says the additional funding would be a huge help for cleanup.

"This has been important to the governor and to our state and local elected officials and we continue to work on the issue," said Blackburn.

FEMA declined an interview request to discuss the declaration process. They also would not provide a timeline as to when they or the president will make a decision.