FEMA’s federal partners played a vital role in helping survivors of the January tornadoes in South Mississippi.
“The value SBA and HUD bring to disaster recovery cannot be overstated,” says Joe Girot, DR-4295-MS FCO. “Having HUD and SBA embedded in the JFO allowed us to coordinate local, state and federal resources in a timely and efficient fashion. That makes a tremendous difference for the survivors and communities in Mississippi.”
SBA may be the most visible of FEMA partners because the agency provides the single largest source of disaster recovery funds through its loan programs. “It’s our role to assist FEMA and other partners in helping survivors understand the recovery process,” notes Agustin “Gus” Fernandez, field operations specialist for SBA. “All survivors should know the resources available to them. Plus, Mississippi is a very forward-thinking state with the goal that all unmet needs are met. SBA helps those who can recover on their own, FEMA helps those who can’t.”
HUD representatives confirmed that working with FEMA and other federal partners ensures a better understanding of needs that helps guide services needed for recovery.
Jerrie Magruder, HUD field office director stationed at the Mississippi JFO, said, “HUD’s longstanding working relationship with housing authorities, city and county governments made our being embedded in the Mississippi JFO an ideal conduit on issues that FEMA needed addressed. Direct access to officials ensured they were kept informed of the needs of the community and how they could help in real time, when it was needed. Moreover, it helped provide assistance to Mississippi Regional Housing Authority 8 in amending its plan to allow for a preference for disaster victims.”
HUD and SBA assisted survivors at disaster recovery centers and served on the Mississippi Unified Housing Task Force, which coordinated and leveraged resources from local, state, federal and voluntary agencies to address unmet housing needs of displaced survivors.
"In Mississippi we must leverage all assets to help our disaster survivors not only immediately after an event but in the months and years after as our communities rebuild," said MEMA Executive Director Lee Smithson. "HUD and SBA are integral partners in restoring our communities to normalcy and I don't know what we would do without them."