Commission wraps rebuilding report

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 13, 2006

MEADVILLE – A final draft of the Governor’s Report On Recovery,Rebuilding and Renewal of Mississippi has been put online and isavailable for viewing by state, county and city officials,according to a member of the Governor’s Commission.

Brian Sanderson, assistant director of the Governor’sCommission, made the announcement Thursday during a FederalEmergency Management Agency workshop here. The report was compiledfrom information received during town hall meetings across thestate.

“A lot of the focus is on the three coastal counties, but thereis a lot of information … on every county that was impacted andit can help guide your efforts on rebuilding your community orcounty,” Sanderson told area officials.

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He said Southwest Mississippi’s main problems seem to stem fromthe sudden influx of permanent and long-term temporary residentsresulting from the evacuation of the coast.

Brookhaven’s Danny Ivy, a representative for the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture’s Rural Development Division, agreed. He saidhundreds of Gulf Coast families are still in SouthwestMississippi.

“Most of them are saying they are not going back. They’re hereto stay,” he said.

Sanderson also sketched a brief outline of how federalappropriations for the disaster recovery would be distributed.

He said a majority of the $29 billion recently allocated forGulf Coast recovery will go to Louisiana and the Mississippi GulfCoast, but some funds were included that could help SouthwestMississippi in its recovery efforts.

Among those is an allotment of $650 million for all states tohelp schools adjust to the influx of displaced students who are nowpart of their districts.

Sanderson estimated there are at least 25,000 displaced studentsin Mississippi schools. That allocation allows for districts to bereimbursed up to $6,000 for each displaced student and $7,500 foreach displaced special education student to cover the additionalexpenses of transportation, books and supplies, hiring ofadditional teachers, and other needs.

District superintendents must apply to the state superintendentto receive the reimbursement.

In a separate education allotment, Sanderson said, $95 millionhas been earmarked for Mississippi for higher education. TheInstitutions of Higher Learning will distribute those funds, whichare meant to offset programs being offered by universities andcommunity colleges to allow displaced students to continue theireducation by waiving tuition and, sometimes, dormitory fees.