Gov. Phil Bryant today announced his plans to call lawmakers into a Special Legislative Session at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, 2014, to provide the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency with access to up to $20 million for disaster response and recovery costs.
Initial estimates indicate the state's costs for last week's deadly tornado outbreak could exceed $13.5 million. Those estimates may change as damage assessments are completed.
Following last week's storms, Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston counties were declared eligible for FEMA's Individual Assistance program and reimbursement assistance with eligible costs for emergency response efforts and debris removal through FEMA's Public Assistance program. Today, Individual Assistance was also extended to Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson and Warren counties. The state is also seeking expanded Public Assistance aid.
"Residents across Mississippi are suffering as a result of last week's deadly tornadoes, and it is imperative that we provide the necessary resources for response and recovery," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "I am hopeful the Legislature will appropriately address the funding needs for this most recent disaster and will provide a sustainable method for satisfying responsibilities the state has for ongoing work from other disasters. We must also be prepared for the possibility of additional emergencies, particularly as we near the start of hurricane season. I thank Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves for their cooperation in addressing these issues."
In addition to costs from last week's tornadoes, MEMA also estimates the state is responsible for $20 million in costs for work that is still being completed on 13 other disasters. As work on those projects is completed at the local level, MEMA becomes responsible for paying 12.5 percent of the costs under a typical federal cost sharing agreement. Local governments are also responsible for 12.5 percent of eligible costs, and the federal government is responsible for the remaining 75 percent. Aid to individuals and households following a federal disaster declaration is paid in full by the federal government.
MEMA is also responsible for paying disaster response costs when there is not a federal disaster declaration and cost sharing structure. Response efforts to an April 2014 storm system that caused a tornado in Covington County and flooding along the Pearl River did not qualify for federal reimbursement. The state must also be prepared to address the threat of new disasters. The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season begins July 1.