By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant is calling the Legislature into special session Thursday to consider providing up to $20 million to deal with the aftermath of the April 28 tornado outbreak that slammed much of Mississippi, including Tupelo, Lee County and Itawamba County.
According to a news release from Bryant’s office, the estimated cost to the state to deal with the April 28 outbreak, which consisted of a reported 15 tornadoes, resulting in 14 deaths, is $13.5 million, but could eventually exceed that figure.
President Barack Obama already has issued emergency declarations for 12 counties, including Lee and Itawamba in Northeast Mississippi, meaning they will be eligible for a variety of types of federal aid, such as paying for emergency response and debris removal.
While the federal government pays 75 percent of the costs for those items after an emergency is declared, the state and local governments are responsible for the remainder of the costs, typically 12.5 percent each.
According to Bryant’s news release, the state is still responsible for $20 million in costs from past federal emergency declarations. Plus, Bryant said the state must be prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.
“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,” 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.”
Bryant has discussed the special session with House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
“I stand ready to help our communities fund necessary and appropriate expenditures associated with last week’s tragic storms,” Reeves said.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he supported the governor’s special session.
“I am going to support anything enriching the lives of people impacted by natural disasters,” said Holland.