Apr 28 2008 -
The month of April has certainly tested Mississippi, with severe weather and ongoing flooding creating hardship for thousands of Mississippians across our state. Three people have lost their lives and nearly 200 homes have been destroyed, with thousands more damaged. In addition, businesses have closed, leaving many without a job.
The storms and flooding have challenged our state, but just as we have done before, Mississippi is rising to the challenge. Local law enforcement and first responders continue working to provide relief to citizens in need, and officials from all levels of government are working together with hundreds of volunteers from our charitable and faith communities to help people in need.
EXTENT OF DAMAGE UNKNOWN
Until the Mississippi River falls below flood levels – which may not be for another month – exact damage estimates will not be known. It is clear, however, that the area is in need of assistance. After initial estimates showed 343 homes in Bolivar, Warren, Washington and Wilkinson Counties damaged or destroyed by flooding, last week Governor Barbour requested federal assistance in the form of FEMA’s Individual Assistance program, which would provide financial assistance, grants and other services to flood victims. I have been encouraged by the initial response from FEMA to the flooding, and I am optimistic this assistance will be granted quickly.
Much like the flooded areas, the Jackson metro area is still assessing the damage from the April 4 storm that blew through central Mississippi with multiple tornados and winds of over 110 mph. Downed trees and debris continue to clutter streets in many parts of the area, with Hinds County needing the most assistance. The high amount of debris remaining in Jackson led city officials last week to approve a resolution to take out a $6 million line of credit to help pay for the clean-up. This only underscores the severity of the disaster, and acts as additional proof that FEMA was wrong in initially denying federal assistance to the area.
FEDERAL ASSISTANCE NEEDED
Both of these disasters warrant financial help from the federal government. I was disappointed that FEMA denied the request for federal aid to the metro area. I am actively working in support of the governor’s appeal, and am guardedly optimistic the decision will be reversed in order to provide local governments and residents in the Jackson area the help they obviously need.
I also fully support the governor’s request for federal assistance for flood victims whose homes were lost or damaged. With thousands of acres of farmland also underwater, homeowners are not the only ones affected by the flood. I will continue working to ensure those farmers have access to low-interest loans and other forms of federal assistance.
MORE CHALLENGES AHEAD
Federal assistance is needed in both of these areas of our state, and I am optimistic it will be delivered. Full recovery for many families, business owners and farmers will take some time, and additional federal assistance beyond what has already been requested will likely be needed. I will continue working with federal, state and local officials, as well as my colleagues in Congress, to ensure those in need receive assistance.