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Delays in Homeowner Grant Program Frustrating to Coast Residents
One Family's Story

By Keith Burton - GCN          10/16/06

By now, almost everyone in South Mississippi knows about the slow progress the state is making in the Homeowner Grant program. The state received $3 billion from the federal government early this year to help homeowners outside of the federal flood zones, but got flooded anyway, to rebuild. The grant program would provide as much as $150,000 toward that effort. Homeowners were told by the governor and others with the Mississippi Development Authority that check would soon come.

But the program has gone poorly. Numerous bureaucratic delays and confusion have left many residents in the program wondering what is going on. While about 1,500 families have gotten checks, there are nearly 17,000 applicants in the program.

GCN received the following email this week and it describes one family's experience.

As you know, I read  your website daily. My latest issue is the all-elusive grant money. Everyone we know, and a lot we don't know, have already gotten their checks or at least have finished their grant paperwork and are awaiting the check. So far, we have received ONE letter saying we are eligible. No amount mentioned. This is all we've gotten since the application process.

I emailed them to see what the hold up was and got a response back that basically said "we'll get to you when we get to you". They had the usual excuses, title search, insurance payments, FEMA, SBA money received, etc. No name to go with the email. Just a generic email address. I wrote them back telling them that during the interview I had submitted an insurance declaration page showing we did have coverage at the time of the storm.

We had also refinanced our house in July 2005 (and hadn't even made the first payment yet when Katrina. hit) so we had current title search, proof of homestead exemption, lot number and description, & our entire refinance package available and submitted at the application process. I also have the print-out of all FEMA monies received. And we never accepted the SBA loan, even though they call us at least 3 times a week. We're trying to hang on and eliminate the middle man with SBA. We are also very wary of the codicils attached to an SBA loan. I checked the disc copy they (the grant interviewers) made for us at the application interview and most of the documents I mentioned above were never even scanned to put in our file!!!

They wrote back and said "if we need anything, we'll let you know". So, long story long, we, too, are among the VERY frustrated ones waiting for that grant. We're at a total standstill. We're back in the house, although we are only about 50% complete. Since my husband works full time, our son is at college all week, and I am physically unable to do any hard work, we have to hire workers and negotiate with them quite a bit. We were blessed to find "Tim" who did a ton of great work at very reasonable rates, but we can't even pay him anymore. So, I guess this is more of a rant than an email with a point to it.  I just wanted to vent a little and let those who have finished with their closing and are waiting for the check to rest assured that you are a lot closer to getting your check than we are!

On an aside, I read an article in the "Clarion Ledger" via your site link about how there were no reported fires or explosions in FEMA trailers in Mississippi. So I sent them the link of your story to update them on that matter. The Ledger article (written by someone obviously not anywhere near here!) stated that FEMA was not aware of any fires in travel trailers in MS, yet for 2 days after the trailer fire down the street, there were FEMA investigators all over the place. So, you see, once again, your website has offered valuable and truthful information that I was able to pass on to those who are supposed to know!

Ok, I am just gonna take a deep breath and try not to look at the mess we're still living in. And let me say, please, that I am not complaining really, just venting. I am also going to write Sen. Lott & Con. Taylor and tell them of our situation.

Keep up the good work!
Mrs. LB in BSL


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