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ARC Katrina Recovery Grants Target Rural Communities in Northeast Mississippi

October 2005


COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI, October 14, 2005—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) today announced approval of a $1.4 million grant to provide assistance to rural communities in north Mississippi affected by the influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope and Congressmen Roger Wicker and Chip Pickering were joined by local officials for the announcement at city hall in Columbus.

"While the physical damage from Katrina was relatively minor in this area, the generous outpouring of support for evacuees has created unexpected demands on the already-limited resources available in many of our rural communities," said Pope. "We came and listened; now we are here with a plan and the resources to help with the specific needs that have been identified by community leaders in northeast Mississippi."

Pope and Governor Haley Barbour's staff recently held listening sessions in West Point and Pontotoc to help determine the levels of need in the 24 Appalachian counties of Mississippi. The meetings included mayors, county commissioners, local economic development officials, the local Red Cross, emergency management experts, and health-care providers from across the Appalachian portion of the state.

"Mississippians have reached out to help neighbors and friends in countless ways since Hurricane Katrina struck, and our cities and counties have played a key role in these efforts," said Wicker. "Our communities deserve praise for marshaling the wide-ranging resources necessary to meet this tremendous challenge. This grant will provide much-needed assistance as our state continues to care for those in need."

Funds will be delivered through a grant program administered by the Mississippi Appalachian Regional Office with the help of the Three Rivers Planning and Development District and will provide fast, short-term gap assistance. The funds may be used to help reduce the fiscal strains on community resources by filling in where other available assistance leaves off.

"This area demonstrated compassion to fellow Mississippians, providing shelter, food, and necessities, and public services," said Pickering. "Volunteers stepped in to help their neighbors register with FEMA, get help from Red Cross, and make those from southern Mississippi feel at home. The Golden Triangle practiced the golden rule, and these funds will help local governments recoup costs expended on these neighbors, friends, and families."

The grants will be awarded to local governments and other public-sector entities and may be used for a wide range of activities, including the restoration of basic services, short-term housing assistance, temporary health care, workforce training, transportation, and service coordination.

Northeast Mississippi is "facing difficult financial decisions," said Barbour, one of the 13 governors in the ARC federal-state partnership. He said that "these grants will reduce that fiscal strain on community resources."

According to Brandon Presley, Nettleton mayor and president of the North Mississippi Mayors Association, many towns have been swamped by the increased need to provide housing, health care, and public services to the large number of families relocating to northeast Mississippi. FEMA reported that, at one point, over 10,000 people were being housed in shelters in the Appalachian region of Mississippi. Some local leaders predict that between one-third and one-half of the evacuees will wind up staying in the general areas where they have relocated.

"The citizens of north Mississippi have exhibited great generosity to the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina," said Senator Thad Cochran. "I am very pleased that the Appalachian Regional Commission has stepped forward to assist the counties in north Mississippi that have played such a large role in relief efforts. I am grateful to our neighboring states for their generosity in making this funding available."

Barbour also expressed his appreciation to the ARC federal office and three states—Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina—for their rapid redirection of ARC funds originally targeted for their states to this special disaster-recovery project.

Pope explained that one benefit of ARC's federal-state partnership is the ability to respond to a crisis and redirect resources to meet special needs in the Region.

West Point Mayor Scott Ross noted that, with over 1,200 evacuees, Clay County's population increased by almost ten percent overnight, and his city has already spent thousands of dollars on shelter-related assistance in putting together livable housing for 250 evacuees at the former Mary Holmes College. Local governments are also faced with the costs associated with accommodating the additional demand on government services.

Co-Chair Pope noted that the sudden rise in population in many north Mississippi towns creates both significant challenges and promising new opportunities for local economies. "Helping foster strong local economies is a key part of ARC's mission," she said.

The Appalachian Regional Office in Tupelo will work with the six ARC planning and development districts, mayors, and other local officials to streamline and expedite the process for the grants. ARC's goal is to have a five-day turnaround on applications. Most of the grants are expected to be in the $25,000–$50,000 range.

"Hurricane Katrina didn't stop on the coast or even in the confines of south Mississippi," Senator Trent Lott said. "This storm cut through the entire length and breadth of our state, leaving communities which are normally unscathed by hurricanes with myriad unanticipated storm-related problems that must be immediately addressed. This funding will help alleviate one of the most serious of those challenges: how to care for the many families displaced by Katrina. Finding innovative ways to help local governments contend with the tremendous stresses wrought by this storm will continue to be one of my top priorities."

To receive grant applications and program guidance for ARC's Kathrina recovery funds, contact the Appalachian Regional Office at 662-844-1184.

Recipients of the grants will be asked to certify that ARC funds will not be used to duplicate other funding assistance. ARC funds can be used to match other federal funds.

All local governments and other public-sector entities in Mississippi's 24 Appalachian counties are eligible to apply for recovery aid through this project. Those counties are Alcorn, Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Itawamba, Kemper, Lee, Lowndes, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Webster, Winston, and Yalobusha.