FEMA: Storm recovery on target

RIDGELAND, Miss. —After a disaster, it takes many partners working together to rebuild communities. Two months after tornadoes and storms swept across the state on April 28, public, private and nonprofit organizations have made significant progress in responding to the needs of communities created by the disaster.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance section has reached out a second time to the more than 5,000 people who registered with FEMA for help. The outreach, dubbed “100 percent touch,” is making sure registrants understand the application process, submit timely documentation and works to find solutions to unmet needs.
To date, nearly $19 million in total federal assistance has been approved for Mississippi disaster survivors. This includes more than $5.3 million for temporary housing and home repairs and other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral costs. And the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved just over $13.6 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private nonprofit organizations.
During the 60-day registration period that ended June 30, FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance crews visited more than 12,000 homes and interacted with more than 9,000 disaster survivors, helping them register with FEMA and making referrals to other agencies and organizations for specific needs outside of FEMA.
More than 4,000 disaster survivors made one or more visits to the 10 disaster recovery centers established in the disaster areas. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency/FEMA centers in Brandon, Canton, Columbus, Laurel, Louisville, Mantachie, Tupelo and Waynesboro offered face-to-face contact with program representatives knowledgeable about disaster assistance and rebuilding.
FEMA mitigation representatives at the recovery centers and at home improvement stores in the disaster areas have met with more than 8,000 people, providing advice on how to rebuild stronger. Three teams will be at locations in or near the disaster area until mid-July.
MEMA and FEMA created a joint housing task force to address the complex housing needs of the 767 households left homeless in the aftermath of the tornadoes. Survivors have received rental assistance grants and FEMA’s direct housing mission has completed placement of nearly two dozen manufactured homes for the residents of Winston County. Temporary housing is installed in commercial parks for survivor use or on an individual homeowner’s property for use while the primary residence is being repaired or rebuilt.
Projects to repair public infrastructure damaged in the storm are being developed. FEMA reimburses 75 percent of eligible disaster-related repairs through its Public Assistance program administered by the state. At the June 30 deadline for receipt of the official notice to FEMA requesting participation, 53 eligible governments and certain private nonprofits such as utilities had signed up for the program. Applicants will work with MEMA and FEMA to be reimbursed for emergency protective measures, debris removal and permanent work such as road and building repairs.
Among the applicants are the City of Louisville, which seeks to rebuild a building leased to a wood products company and the Winston County Medical Foundation, which lost its Winston Medical Center, nursing home and outpatient clinic to the EF-4 tornado that struck the area. The hospital is operating temporarily out of the National Mobile Disaster Hospital, a FEMA-owned facility composed of 27 modular units that arrived in Louisville May 3.
Through its virtual Business Emergency Operations Center, MEMA is working with employers to stabilize jobs affected in the tornado; partners in recovery have donated equipment and materials for the volunteers to use in cleanup and rebuilding.
When the disaster struck April 28, the American Red Cross opened shelters that eventually provided 678 overnight stays and more than 47,000 meals or snacks. The Salvation Army opened eight mobile kitchens and three fixed feeding sites, serving more than 17,500 meals or snacks. Since then, many other volunteers have stepped up both from the local area and outside the region to clean up debris and begin rebuilding.
MEMA and FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons have helped connect unaffiliated spontaneous volunteers with affiliated groups and identify and organize groups that are not part of the Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. VALs have also assisted in making referrals to appropriate agencies and helped establish the NE Mississippi Community Based Recovery Committee to address unmet needs of survivors in Lee and Itawamba counties.
Disaster survivors in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Montgomery, Rankin, Simpson, Warren, Wayne and Winston counties who registered for assistance may check the status of their applications, update contact information or ask questions via the FEMA helpline, 800-621-3362. The TTY number for those who are deaf or hard of hearing is 800-462-7585.