Disaster declaration extended, storm aid coming

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Gov. Haley Barbour announced residents and business owners in four additional counties can access federal emergency assistance programs after President Obama approved and expanded Mississippi’s federal disaster declaration for severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that affected the state.

The additional counties are Chickasaw, Choctaw, Neshoba and Webster.

These four counties will receive FEMA Individual Assistance, which provides grants for individuals and families and low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Counties with damages not listed may still qualify for federal assistance following additional damage assessments that are still ongoing.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced HUD would speed federal disaster assistance to Mississippi and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes following severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding.

Last Friday, President Obama issued a disaster declaration for Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Jasper, Kemper, Lafayette and Monroe county in Mississippi. The President’s declaration allows HUD to offer foreclosure relief and other assistance to certain families living in these counties.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has made immediately available $6 million in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program aid for disaster recovery projects in 10 states affected by storms and floods. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In response to the recent storms and floods, NRCS provided $600,000 in EWP Program financial and technical assistance to each of its 10 NRCS state offices so that field personnel can swiftly begin work on projects that reduce or remove dangerous threats to public safety and infrastructure.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security is continuing to assist workers. The agency is accepting unemployment insurance claims from those left jobless by tornadoes.

There is also concern about workers being displaced by flooding. The Mississippi River has and is continuing to reach flood stages in several areas of the state, temporarily closing many casinos and possibly other businesses. Casino closures along the Mississippi River could leave approximately 12,000 workers temporarily laid off.

Because of the volume of workers who may need to file unemployment insurance claims, the agency today is sending Mobile WIN Job Centers to its WIN Job Centers in Tunica and Southaven.

The Yazoo-Mississippi Levee Board has ordered levee access closed in Coahoma, DeSoto and Tunica counties due to an unusual high water event. Closing of all access to the DeSoto Lake Lots – Highwater Road will be effective May 4. Authorized vehicles only will be allowed on the levee.

The Board began closing all inlets last Wednesday and has requested that the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors put in place a mandatory evacuation in effect for residents on the river side of the levees by Wednesday at the latest.

“Our levees are in top condition, and we are confident regarding their stability,” said Kelly Greenwood, Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board chief engineer and CEO. “We are taking prudent, precautionary steps to monitor the levees for safety reasons as events merit.”

Barbour announced the Mississippi Disaster Recovery Fund Inc. is accepting donations to help communities recovering from the storms and those in the path of the floods from the Mississippi River.

Anyone who would like to contribute can donate either through the web site www.mississippirelief.com, or text “MS” to “27722″ to give $10 to the Mississippi Disaster Recovery Fund. Donors also can send a check to the Mississippi Disaster Recovery Fund, c/o BankPlus, 4450 Old Canton Road, Suite 101, Jackson, MS, 39211, or donate at any BankPlus branch.

Source: Gov. Haley Barbour; Mississippi Emergency Management Agency; Yazoo-Mississippi Levee Board

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