BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge visited Breathitt County Wednesday, with a million-dollar announcement.

Fudge announced that $298 million are on its way to help rebuild homes and roads across eastern Kentucky, and Fudge said it is one of the largest single grants in the country.

“I am coming here today to not just give you resources, but to give you hope,” Fudge said. “I am bringing a check, I don’t have it in my hand, but it’s for $289 million dollars to the state of Kentucky.”

When the historic, July 2022 flood destroyed multiple communities across eastern Kentucky, many victims said they never stood a chance to begin with, because they lived in such poverty.

Now, those eastern Kentuckians have gone from poverty to devastation.

The $298 million federal check may be the turning point for eastern Kentuckians, as its end use is not to restore destroyed homes, but to build a sustainable future for communities.

The U.S. HUD grant will not work like a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) check or Small Business Association (SCBA) loan. The money is meant to be put toward the city and countywide developments, building neighborhoods, business communities, and sound infrastructure surrounding them.

Fudge challenged both city and county leaders to think with the intention of “Building Back Better.”

“As you think about how you use these resources, think about the future, not just building for today,” Fudge said.

The floods destroyed about 749 homes and 148 roads, and it scared many flood victims enough to move away. The hardest-hit counties are quickly losing their population.

Those counties are Breathitt, Knott, Perry, and Letcher counties, and Fudge said Breathitt County was hit the hardest, so the one contingency the U.S. HUD has for Kentucky is to put the majority of the grant money toward Breathitt County.

In a town hall meeting following the news conference Wednesday, many organizers said capacity and speed were key. A dire reason for Breathitt County to rebuild back quickly is that many flood victims have moved out since July, and the county’s population has begun to dwindle.

Dana Fugate, a case manager for C.O.R.E Management said, “We are seeing some to neighboring counties, some farther away, they have to have a place to live, and unfortunately, it’s very limited in our communities. I’m very concerned about the length of time it would take to get here. The 2021 funding isn’t even here yet. This seems like it would be quicker, which is so important.”


Jackson’s mayor, Laura Thomas, also spoke about the long-term goals for not only developing the city as a place to keep people in their homes but attracting newcomers as well to what she calls, “The Mountaintops.”

“We’re just really afraid we’ll continue to lose population,” Thomas said. “Because they can find jobs elsewhere, and if the homes are not here anymore, then why stay? But we want people to stay here in the mountaintops.”

Following the announcement of the grant, the flood counties will now have to come up with an action plan on how the grant money will be properly allocated, across all counties, to rebuild homes and roads.

Thomas said the next steps, for the city of Jackson, will be needing to hire a community planner, and then start holding community forums, where people can provide feedback on how they think the grant money can help eastern Kentuckians build a sustainable future together.