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by CareyBot

Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Alphonso Jackson today announced he is approving a $3.4 billion plan to assist Mississippi victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Two months ago, Jackson allocated $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding to assist Mississippi’s long-term recovery efforts, and the latest plan will provide up to $150,000 in assistance for each qualified homeowner.

On Friday, Mississippi submitted a partial plan for $3.4 billion of that money that focuses on one-time grants to eligible homeowners whose primary residences were flooded in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The remaining $1.6 billion in CDBG funding will be made available to Mississippi once the State submits another action plan for HUD’s review, according to the announcement.

“It’s critical that we move quickly to help Mississippi homeowners to recover and rebuild not only their homes, but their lives,” Jackson said. “This funding is part of President Bush’s commitment to help the Gulf Coast recover, and for HUD’s part we stand ready to help in any way we can as we move along that long road toward making Mississippi whole again.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said, “I am grateful for HUD’s assistance in working with us to get this desperately needed aid to homeowners as quickly as possible. HUD’s approval means the program can officially open on April 17, getting essential money into the hands of coastal homeowners who desperately need the help to rebuild and repair.”

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, “I’m pleased that Secretary Jackson and the staff at HUD have approved Mississippi’s partial action plan. Sen. (Thad) Cochran (R-Miss.) and I worked very hard to secure this funding through the legislative process specifically to help homeowners who, even though they were outside the flood plain, saw their homes washed away. Now, thousands of these Mississippians who’re stuck with a slab and a mortgage can truly begin the process of rebuilding and recovery.”

Mississippi’s grant-funded plan includes:

  • Homeowner Grant Assistance Program – It’s estimated that more than 65,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed in Southern Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina. About 31,000 Mississippi homeowners whose properties were located outside of established flood plains have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Of these, about 27,000 homeowners either carried no flood insurance or were underinsured.

    The state’s plan includes $3 billion in grants up to a maximum $150,000 per eligible homeowner. In exchange for this assistance, a covenant will be placed on the property that obligates all current and future homeowners to comply with building codes, flood insurance and elevation requirements.

  • Elevation Grant Program – An estimated $250 million will be made available to eligible homeowners up to a maximum $30,000 per grant. This assistance is designed to help defray the added costs associated with raising homes to meet new elevation requirements.

  • Local Assistance Program – Mississippi’s plan includes $5 million to help Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, and Jackson counties pay for additional permitting and building inspectors for one year.

  • Fraud Prevention and Investigation Program – The Mississippi Development Authority will devote $5 million for the creation of a Katrina Fraud Prevention and Investigation Team to augment other state and federal efforts to mitigate waste, fraud and abuse. Managed by the Office of the State Auditor, this anti-fraud unit will investigate instances of suspected abuse during application review and eligibility process, according to the announcement.