JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If it’s approved by President Joe Biden, 31 counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians could soon qualify for millions in federal disaster relief funding.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has submitted its request for a major disaster declaration for the winter weather event that occurred Feb. 11-19. The document now will go before the president, but the president is not required to sign it.
The storm wreaked havoc across the state, causing dangerous road conditions, widespread power outages, and damage to numerous municipal water systems.
The declaration now must be signed off on by the president in order for the state, its counties, and the Choctaw Indians can apply for federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Now, we have to await the president’s approval,” said MEMA Public Information Officer Kelly Richardson. “It’s at the federal level and out of our hands.”
It was unclear when the declaration request would go to the president and it was not known if he would approve it.
Officials with FEMA conducted tours of the storm-hit areas beginning March 9.
The agency determined that 31 counties met the threshold to qualify for disaster relief: Adams, Attala, Choctaw, Claiborne, Copiah, Covington, Franklin, Grenada, Hinds, Jasper, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Kemper, Lafayette, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Pike, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Smith, Tallahatchie, Walthall, Warren, Winston and Yazoo.
Each county had to report a certain amount of damage to qualify, Richardson said. Hinds County, for instance, had to have $954,159 in damage.
Reports submitted to MEMA in March showed that Hinds County sustained an estimated $18.7 million in damage to its water infrastructure following the storm, with most of that in Jackson. However, following FEMA inspections, the county now qualifies for about $1,450,000.
MEMA estimates that at least $25 million in damage was caused in all 31 counties that qualified, according to an agency news release.
If the declaration is approved, counties would be able to receive public assistance of up to 75% to cover rebuilding costs. All expenses, of course, would have to be approved by FEMA and would require a 25% local match.
Validated storm-related damages for each county are shown below. Look at the final column for total damage costs for the county and other state agencies.