The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded to Mississippians’ needs when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast and remains committed to helping residents with their recovery in its aftermath.
“We want everyone in Mississippi to know that we’re here for the long haul. We want to ensure that no one who needs help is left behind,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for the disaster recovery effort.
Nearly three months after the devastating hurricane struck on Aug. 29, FEMA, in coordination with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), continues to provide and coordinate individual assistance through temporary housing, debris removal, temporary roofing for damaged structures, grants and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for rebuilding and other areas of aid. FEMA and MEMA have opened 34 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC’s) where people affected by Hurricane Katrina can go for help with their recovery. Twenty-seven DRC’s are operating today.
FEMA’s work doesn’t end there. The agency also is working with MEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, SBA and others to mitigate the damage should another disaster of this magnitude occur.
“We cannot overstate the amount of cooperation that is required as state, federal and voluntary agencies work toward our recovery,” said Robert Latham, MEMA’s executive director. “We all have the same goal: getting our residents the help they need on the road to recovery.”
Soon after the devastating hurricane roared through Mississippi, FEMA and MEMA responded with hundreds of workers and public information campaigns outlining where people affected by the hurricane could turn for help. Residents were informed about temporary housing assistance, disaster unemployment assistance, replacement grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs.
The response to Katrina resulted in 24-hour activation of the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and other operations centers for more than 70 days – their longest-ever continuous activation. The NRCC is a multi-agency center that provides overall federal response coordination.
Within a week, FEMA and MEMA had opened the first Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), in Ocean Springs.
As part of the recovery effort, residents learned they could receive grants for home repairs not covered by insurance to make their damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional. They also could receive grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state, and charitable aid programs.
More than 268,000 visits have been made to the DRC’s to follow up on disaster relief applications since the first one opened on Sept. 6. of that number:
* Almost 143,000 have met with specialists to discuss their housing needs.
* Nearly 101,000 people have visited with SBA representatives regarding disaster assistance loans.
* More than 72,000 people have inquired about other recovery needs.
* More than 26,000 individuals have visited with non-profit relief agencies, such as the American Red Cross.
* A total of 24,079 people have inquired at the DRC’s about disaster-related unemployment assistance. Overall, more than 134,600 workers have filed for unemployment compensation through the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
* More than 18,100 homeowners had questions about Blue Roofs, temporary plastic sheeting placed over damaged roofs to keep them from leaking.
* About 8,500 individuals have visited with insurance company representatives.
Other assistance, such as crisis counseling, also is available at the DRC’s. Residents are receiving income tax assistance for filing casualty losses. FEMA is providing or coordinating advisory assistance for legal issues, veterans’ benefits and Social Security matters.
FEMA and MEMA continue to help with temporary housing assistance. More than 52,000 residents are housed in over 19,000 FEMA-provided travel trailers. In addition, more than 1,400 people are temporarily housed on a cruise ship docked at the Port of Pascagoula, and the number will continue to fluctuate as those people find their own housing or are placed in travel trailers or mobile homes.
When hurricanes strike, they damage more than just private property. Public facilities – roads, schools, hospitals, police and fire departments, water and sewer treatment facilities and the like – sustained extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina. FEMA’s Public Assistance program has already committed more than $559 million in Mississippi to help cover the cost of response and recovery projects involving local governments and non-profit agencies.
More than 20.28 million cubic yards of debris has been removed from public and non-profit property so far. That accounts for almost half of the total debris Hurricane Katrina left in its wake on public and non-profit organizations’ property.
The deadline to apply for public assistance is Nov. 30. State and local agencies, Native American tribes and certain private non-profits may apply for federal funding. Eligible agencies can request application packets for disaster assistance by calling (601) 965-2596 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. or file online at www.mississippipa.org.
The FEMA toll-free number to register individual for assistance is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the speech- or hearing-impaired. For additional SBA loan information, call 1-800-659-2955 or go to the agency’s Web site at www.sba.gov/disaster.
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