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Rebuilding Right
Column by: Sen. Trent Lott    4/7/06  GCN

Thousands of Mississippi homeowners left with just a slab and a mortgage by Hurricane Katrina  at long last can begin rebuilding by applying for up to $150,000 in homeowner repair or reconstruction assistance through the State of Mississippi.                                   

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved Mississippi’s plan to take a $3.4 billion federal grant and distribute it to qualified Gulf Coast homeowners who, even though they were outside the flood plain and ineligible for flood insurance, still saw their homes washed away by Hurricane Katrina’s massive storm surge.

As you may recall, Mississippi’s Congressional delegation worked hard to secure about $5 billion, specifically to help Mississippi homeowners and businesses outside the flood zone.  Congress authorized this funding to be administered through the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

As with any Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application, MDA was required to submit to HUD a plan for administering the funds, indicating how Mississippi will determine individual qualification.   This week’s action certifies a plan officially submitted March 31 to distribute $3.4 billion strictly to rebuild or repair homes.  A remaining $1.6 billion will be distributed under a separate plan, and it will be geared toward non-residential needs, including businesses and public infrastructure.

If you are a homeowner or, perhaps more accurately a “slab owner,” outside the flood zone and without flood insurance, you may qualify for some level of assistance under this CDBG program.  The first step is to visit the website www.mshomehelp.gov or call MDA’s Homeowner Assistance Call Center, toll free at 866-369-6302, or 601-576-5700 in the Jackson area. 

You also can access the MDA homeowner assistance center from my website www.lott.senate.gov  by clicking on the Hurricane Katrina recovery box in the lower left hand corner. Online applications with MDA will hasten the process and ensure a quicker appointment at the designated Homeowner Assistance Service Center nearest you.  You’ll also find a guidebook online with a section of frequently-asked questions, along with some of the basic requirements for application.

These requirements include having owned and occupied your home when Katrina made landfall, assurances that the home was located within Harrison, Hancock, Jackson or Pearl River counties, that it was your primary residence, that you maintained homeowners insurance, and that your home was outside the pre-Katrina, federally-designated 100-year flood zone, yet still suffered Katrina-related flood damage

Grant recipients will be required to meet certain covenants, including rebuilding or repairing in accordance with applicable codes and local ordinances, and reconstructing to newly recommended federal flood elevation standards.  One application per home is allowed, and grants will apply to structural damage only.

Whether you call or inquire online, when applying you’ll need to provide your phone number, any other contact information and the address where the damage occurred.  You’ll also need to bring  government-issued photo identification, like a driver’s license.  You’ll need your Social Security number, income information, deed and mortgage data, insurance papers and any Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance documentation.  Keep in mind that you must be able to explain how the funds will be used.

There may be other requirements pertaining to your individual situation.  I encourage you to go online or contact MDA now to make sure you have everything you need to fully complete your homeowner assistance application.

The plan for distributing the remaining $1.6 billion for Mississippi’s CDBG allocation is pending HUD’s review.  I’ll keep you posted on this process, too. The Homeowner Assistance Program is a big step forward in our Katrina recovery. I know Mississippians will be good stewards of this money, and we’ll continue showing the world the right way to rebuild and recover.

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email

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