Lawmakers approve $17M for disaster relief, MEMA hopes more counties will qualify

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi legislature unanimously approved 17 million dollars in state disaster assistance Thursday after last week's deadly tornadoes.

"What the legislature approved is going to cover the debris removal in the counties that have been designated," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency's Greg Flynn. "The state is going to cover the local share for all debris removal so the cities and the counties in the declared areas will not have to come up with their 12.5 percent as is typically the case. The state's going to pay the full 25 percent, so it will save them money."

Counties eligible for federal assistance are Lee, Itawamba, Lowndes, Winston, Madison, Rankin and Wayne counties. However, five other counties are eligible for individual assistance and could eventually qualify for federal assistance.

"It's still a moving target for us as we're adding counties and adding categories, but as far as the individual grant program goes, we're locked in with the counties that have been declared where everybody in those counties is eligible to register for grant assistance from FEMA," said Flynn.

Montgomery, Leake, Warren, Simpson and Jones counties are currently eligible for individual assistance. Flynn believes Leake, Jones and Newton will be added to the group of those eligible for federal assistance once damage assessments are complete.

"It appears that they have enough debris to get counted in there for debris removal," said Flynn of the three counties. "We're fairly confident that Jones [County] will be covered in Category A and B."

While those counties wait for approval, Flynn said clean-up efforts will continue.

"It won't stop the work that's going on in Jones County," said Flynn. "It will just be a question of if it falls under that reimbursement."

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