Biden approves Kentucky flooding disaster declaration, making federal money available

Kentucky's governor said the death toll from the floods could more than double

President Biden has approved a disaster declaration following catastrophic flooding in eastern Kentucky. 

The president ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local recovery efforts in areas impacted by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides beginning on Tuesday and continuing.

"Federal funding is available to commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in the counties of Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike and Wolfe," the administration wrote.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire commonwealth.


Damage assessments are continuing in other areas and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after assessments are completed.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said late Friday morning that 16 lives have been lost in the floods, with the toll expected to more than double – perhaps, within the day.

He said the deaths included children.

"The tough news is 16 confirmed fatalities now, and folks that’s going to get a lot higher," Beshear explained. He said the deaths were in four eastern Kentucky counties.

Beshear had planned to tour the disaster area on Friday, but his office said the trip was postponed because conditions at the airport where they were going to land are unsafe.


Search and rescue efforts are continuing, and emergency crews made close to 50 air rescues and hundreds of water rescues on Thursday.

"There are hundreds of families that have lost everything," Beshear said. "And many of these families didn’t have much to begin with. And so it hurts even more. But we’re going to be there for them."

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), just an inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage, with most homeowners' insurance not covering flood damage.

Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of 23,000 participating National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) communities. 

While FEMA said its update to the NFIP's risk rating methodology – Risk Rating 2.0 – would prompt more people to sign up for coverage, a report obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act estimates 1 million fewer Americans will buy flood insurance by the end of the decade.


The agency told the AP that it has not directly studied how many people will buy flood insurance.

"There’s numerous reasons that growth could occur as time goes on," David Maurstad, a senior executive of the NFIP, said – adding that an enrollment analysis should consider the agency’s marketing efforts, the program’s clear messaging of flood risk, price decreases and other factors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.