Miss. Expects to Issue Grants to Katrina Homeowners

June 5, 2006

Mississippi officials say the first of about 16,000 applications for homeowner grants to repair damage from Hurricane Katrina should be issued by the end of June.

The grants, which are administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, provide up to $150,000 to repair or rebuild primary residences in four coastal counties. The money is part of $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants that Congress approved for states hit by 2005 hurricanes.

The amount homeowners receive will depend on how much insurance they had and the amount of damage they sustained.

“In essence, what we’re doing is turning their regular insurance policy into a flood insurance policy,” MDA spokesman Scott Hamilton said.

MDA will notify residents of how much money they will get after the verification process, which includes authenticating title records and checking with insurance companies, mortgage companies, the small business administration and FEMA, Hamilton said.

Some homeowners are still waiting to meet with MDA. The deadline to sign up for appointments was Wednesday, and the agency registered several hundred people in the last two days, Hamilton said.
MDA began accepting applications April 17. Hamilton said there is no set turnaround time for a person to receive funds after applying.

“It’s not necessarily a first-in-first-out system because different people are going to have different circumstances,” he said.

Originally, MDA expected about 30,000 applications based on FEMA data, Hamilton said. Later data lowered the estimate to about 20,000.

Hamilton said fewer people might have applied because they already recovered from Katrina or might get too little money to justify accepting the requirements.

The program has $3 billion available for home grants and $400 million to help homeowners raise their property to meet the grant’s height requirements.

Hamilton said he does not expect all the money to be used.
“If we just assume $100,000 per grant on average, that would be about $1.6 billion,” he said.

Money left over will be used for other programs to help residents, Gov. Haley Barbour’s spokesman Pete Smith said.

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