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Governor signs disaster relief bill

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Damage dollars are adding up quickly after last week's tornado outbreak. Governor Phil Bryant has signed off on a bill that will give the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency more money to help.

MEMA says it should be enough to get them by until the legislature comes back in January.

The Mississippi Senate and House passed the disaster relief bill unanimously and sent it to the governor's desk.

The bill allows the state to fully reimburse local governments for debris removal costs. It gives MEMA access to up to $20-mlllion, to advance to local jurisdictions while waiting on FEMA money.

Initial estimates indicate the state's costs for last week's deadly tornado outbreak could exceed $13.5 million. Those estimates may change as damage assessments are completed.

State and local governments are each supposed to put up a one-eighth match to federal aid.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton met with the Governor and lawmakers at the Capitol Thursday.

In addition to a show of support Shelton said he wanted to,"share the first hand view of the devastation to our city."

The special session bill allows for $17 million to come out of the car tag reduction fund.

"It's some money that wasn't being used," said House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson. "Just kind of stranded."

The only opposition seemed to come in the way of where the money's coming from. Representative Cecil Brown offered up an amendment to use the rainy day fund instead.

"If there was ever a rainy day in Mississippi, certainly that day that those terrible things happened to our folks was a rainy day," Brown said on the floor.

That amendment failed on this voice vote.

On April 28, twenty-three tornadoes touched down across the state. Mississippi Emergency Management Director Robert Latham says more than 1,400 people have already registered for federal disaster assistance.

Senator Giles Ward is one of the storm victims. His family lost their home in last weeks' Louisville tornado.

"Unimaginable fright but after about 45 seconds it was over with and we started counting blessings one by one," Ward described.

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