South Miss. Residents Happy to Learn of $29B for Katrina Relief

December 28, 2005

Residents of south Mississippi expressed joy upon learning that Congress is providing $29 billion in aid for Hurricane Katrina relief.

The package includes $11.5 billion to assist homeowners, with grants capped at $150,000 for owner-occupied homes.

The state will deduct any money paid on private insurance claims or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s great. I still think the insurance companies should be taking care of it,” Waveland resident Paul Phillips said. “But wherever it comes from, we won’t be complaining.”

Phillips spent Christmas in a FEMA trailer on his property after he lost his home to Katrina’s record storm surge. He and wife Polly dropped their flood insurance in the late 1990s after they were told it was unnecessary.

Under the plan, the state will use the money to offer $150,000 grants to people whose houses flooded but were outside federally designated flood zones. Recipients must rebuild according to stricter building codes and new flood maps, and they must carry flood insurance on the rebuilt structures.

State officials say the program will take several weeks to implement.

Gov. Haley Barbour pushed Congress for it and said it will be an “enormous organizational and administrative task.”

He warned that it will take several weeks for the state to receive federal guidelines on how to spend the money, and could take months after that to launch the program.

“This is the equivalent of establishing a financial institution from scratch that has the ability to accept and review between 50,000 and 75,000 applications in a matter of weeks,” Barbour said.

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