Disaster Recovery Begins

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Doug Maddox of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said people who needed help in Mississippi have received it.

"We've already dispersed in excess of $3 million in the state of Mississippi, which I think is a phenomenal amount of money, to get it out that quickly to the folks who need it," Maddox told the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors Monday. "And what also impressed me is that, of the people who called and said hey we need some help, we've had 78 percent that qualified. It just wasn't somebody who had some water that overflowed their fish pond that called and complained."

Maddox was followed by Mike Dill of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency who reported on Lauderdale County.

"To date, 135 people have successfully completed the 800 number registration. Of those, 99 are from the city of Meridian and 36 would be from the county," said Dill.

There were disaster relief applications from surrounding counties as well. Newton had 24, Clarke 20, Neshoba 3, Kemper just one.

There were none from Jasper and Wayne counties.

Clarence Butler, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, stressed that anyone who wants to apply for assistance must first call and register through a toll-free number, 1-800-621-3362.

Victims of the storms can apply for federal aid in the form of either SBA loans or federal grants, depending on their financial status and ability to repay. Twenty-eight counties in Mississippi were affected by the severe storms and that's why FEMA and MEMA are set up at the Central Fire Station, 2500 14th Street, in Meridian to help those in need.

"It means getting people back to normal as soon as possible," said Leon Shaifer, state disaster-coordinating official. "In order to do that, the disaster recovery center is a very key component."

Shaifer works hand in hand with the Federal Coordinating Officer, Carlos Mitchell, in getting relief to victims. They have been working since the federal declaration came last week to make sure the DRC is staffed and functioning to ensure that all victims get the information they need.

"Anybody that has damages not covered by insurance should call and register and let that inspector come to their house to make a determination to the amount of damage they have," Mitchell said.

Emergency management officials say this disaster was different from the Newton tornado back in December, because this time, it affected more people in a larger area as opposed to a single town or county.
"With federal assistance it's called disaster assistance. It may be a disaster to one county but by definition it's not a disaster until more counties are affected," Shaifer said.

Right now the assistance is only available to the victims of early April storms, but Gov. Musgrove is asking the feds to extend relief to victims of the storms through April 25.