Legislators return to Capitol to vote on tornado relief funding

state capitolJACKSON — Mississippi lawmakers are returning to Jackson today for a special session to consider up to $20 million in state funding for tornado recovery.

Twenty-three tornadoes swept through the state last week, killing 14 people and causing extensive damage in Louisville, Tupelo and other places.

The special session begins at 1 p.m. today and is expected to be short.

Gov. Phil Bryant said officials are continuing to evaluate damages. An initial estimate shows the state’s costs are at least $13.5 million, but that figure could increase.

Bryant is asking lawmakers to set aside up to $20 million for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He said the agency is still working on recovery from 13 previous disasters.

“He had a very productive meeting with the (House) speaker and the lieutenant governor,” Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb said yesterday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson said yesterday that finding $20 million will be no problem because the state has more than $400 million in financial reserves.

“Where it comes from is not a big issue to me,” Frierson said in a phone interview. “I just want to help the city of Louisville and the city of Tupelo and the other places that need it.”

At least 300 buildings were destroyed in central Mississippi’s Winston County, which has a population of about 19,000. In the county seat of Louisville, the hospital was heavily damaged and patients were evacuated.

In disaster recovery projects, the state government typically is pays about 12.5 percent of the cost and the local government pays 12.5 percent, with the federal government paying 75 percent. The federal government pays the full cost of recovery aid to households.

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