State to Start Sending Homeowner Elevation Grant Checks
JACKSON, Miss. – Almost 3,000 Mississippi Coast homeowners whose primary residences suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge will soon begin receiving grants to elevate their homes above new federal flood requirements.
“MDA has already sent the first batch of checks this week and we’re telephoning other homeowners to schedule closing on their applications,” Jon Mabry, Chief Operating Office at MDA’s Disaster Recovery Division said.
This program, an extension of the Homeowner Assistance Program, (HAP) ceased taking applications Saturday, March 15, in accordance with the deadline for receiving all Homeowner Assistance Applications.
The Elevation Grant Program is a construction initiative where the federal government requires that each site complies with all applicable environmental and building code mandates.
“Therefore this is much more complex to implement than Phase I and Phase II of the Homeowner Assistance Program, which dealt only with sending checks to compensate for Katrina storm surge losses,” Mabry continued.
“The Elevation Grant Program goes a step further in providing each approved applicant up to $30,000 to help the homeowners whose site geography demands they now elevate above new, post Katrina federal flood regulations, better preparing for another hurricane. To do that, the federal government requires some very extensive environmental evaluations of each site involving everything from lead based paint assessments to determining whether each site may have historic and archeological significance.”
To simplify the environmental review process and speed the application and disbursal schedules, MDA, in conjunction with all federal agencies and entities with a role in environmental site certification, composed a broad check list by which each site can be generally evaluated.
“This is making it easier on the applicant, keeping each homeowner from having to engage with all these agencies on their own, which would have been much more trying and time consuming,” Mabry continued. “In addition, we’re prioritizing applications in which owners are elevating and constructing on their original home’s footprint, without dramatic site changes which trigger new environmental assessments.”
The environmental and code compliance verification is being conducted by URS Corporation, under contract with MDA. Inspection teams from URS are currently deployed in the three Coastal counties conducting site reviews, at no cost to the homeowner.
Since prioritizing the applicants by construction status, MDA expects checks to be released in a continuous fashion with payments and closing packages being mailed weekly.