Tupelo, MS -- Sixty percent of the state of Mississippi has been declared a federal disaster area following new designations Thursday for 15 counties hit by severe storms March 12. Fifty of the state's 82 counties are in a declared disaster.
At the request of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the southern counties were added to 35 northern counties previously designated for severe storms and tornadoes Feb. 16 and 24.
Federal and state assistance is now available to individuals and families in Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Walthall, Lincoln, Scott, Pearl River, Amite, Jones, Pike, Franklin, Tate, Neshoba, Wilkinson and Perry counties.
Residents who suffered storm damage beginning Feb. 16 can register for state and federal assistance by calling the Federal Emergency g and help to meet needs not covered by insurance or community service agenciesManagement Agency's (FEMA) toll-free number, 1-800-462-9029. This includes temporary housin.
Assistance to repair or replace damaged essential facilities, such as roads, bridges and utility lines, is available to state and local governments and qualifying private, nonprofit organizations in Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Walthall, Lincoln, Perry, Pearl River and Jones counties. This is called public assistance and FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost.
John D. Hannah of FEMA, head of the agency's disaster operations in Mississippi, said help is available only to those who register, a process that takes minutes. "Registering is what sets everything in motion," he emphasized.
Persons with speech or hearing impairments can call 1-800-462-7585. Both lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice.
Disaster victims are eligible for several disaster housing programs, including rental and mortgage assistance, grants to individuals and families for emergency repairs, disaster unemployment assistance and low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration and help in planning construction of safe rooms.
Leon Shaifer, the official in charge of state recovery operations, emphasized that all who suffered losses in the storm should register before the April 24 deadline. "Register even if you are insured so you are protected if the policy doesn't fully cover the damage," said Shaifer.