Officials learn exactly what disaster declaration means

CORINTH – While more individuals made their claims for disaster recovery assistance at Corinth’s Crossroads Arena on Tuesday, public officials learned what the federal disaster declaration will mean to their communities.
About 80 supervisors, mayors, aldermen, engineers, emergency management directors, utility officials, nonprofits and others met with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency staff to complete the applications that get the process started.
“Don’t hold back on presenting your damage,” said Dan Munger, MEMA’s deputy for public assistance projects. The goal, he said, is to bring communities back to pre-disaster levels.
Alcorn County supervisors meet with their FEMA coordinator today to begin identifying all their projects for federal aid.
The federal disaster declaration covers the damage from the flooding and tornadoes that raked north Mississippi on the weekend of May 1-2.
Each of the other groups in counties approved for federal disaster public assistance – Benton, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo – is being scheduled for similar meetings with their assigned coordinators.
Lafayette County was approved for federal disaster individual assistance, but not the public assistance available to these counties.
The state is asking that two additional counties – Marshall and Union – be added to the county public assistance declaration, said Derek Donley, MEMA’s lead coordinator for the May 1-2 recovery.
While relieved to learn that disaster assistance would pay for additional workers to remove and dispose of debris, but Tippah District 1 Supervisor and board President Jimmy Gunn had another concern.
“We had to put our regular roadwork on hold while we took care of debris removal,” Gunn said. “Will there be any help for what we did before we knew there would be a federal disaster declaration?”
Questions like these should be raised at meetings with coordinators, Munger said, though previous work is not likely to be reimbursable.
“We had inmates who lost personal belongings when the jail flooded,” said Michelle Cahoon, administrative assistant to the Alcorn County sheriff. “Can they file claims or can we file for them?”
Not through the public assistance program, said Munger, who fielded questions about a variety of concerns.
Although some damages are not eligible through the public assistance program, Alcorn, Benton, Lafayette, Tippah and Tishomingo counties also received federal disaster declarations for individual assistance.
Individuals are urged to file claims for personal property losses to see if they are eligible, FEMA officials said on Monday.
To begin an individual claim, people can call (800) 621-3362, or go to www.disasterassistance.org.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal