Residents of Lowndes and Clay counties can get up to $3,500 in reimbursement from the state to build safe rooms as part of a pilot program.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Individual Safe Room Program is open to people who live in Lowndes, Clay, Humphreys, Issaquena, Monroe, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties.
About $2.5 million has been set aside for reimbursements of up to 75 percent or $3,500 toward the cost of construction, according to a MEMA press release. The agency anticipates building over 600 safe rooms in the affected counties.
“This is something people in Lowndes County really need to participate in,” said Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Cindy Lawrence. “We have no shelters in Lowndes County. We can use the ones at the schools, but if school is in session we don’t have any, nothing.”
Lawrence said participants have to build the shelters on the front end, and then can apply to MEMA for reimbursement.
“It all goes through the state,” she said. “Nothing goes through (local agencies).”
The shelters can be of either above- or below-ground, Lawrence said. This is the first time MEMA has offered such a program since 2010.
“This is something I wish they would do every year,” she said.
“We are excited to offer the Individual Safe Room Program,” said MEMA Executive Director Stephen McCraney. “Opening the program statewide will take time because funding is tied to specific disasters and certain counties impacted by those events. I want Mississippians to know we are working many avenues to ensure this program is more accessible for all citizens.”
Mobile home owners must own the home and the land to be eligible, and renters are not eligible. If your home is in the floodplain, you may be eligible to install a shelter above ground. Below-ground safe rooms are not allowed in floodplains.
Eligible applicants can apply at my.msema.org and click Safe Room Application. MEMA will contact the applicant to confirm receipt of the application. Funds may not be used for safe rooms that have already been built.
For more information or to ask any questions, call 1-833-592-6362. The call center opened Aug. 1.
Applications will be accepted until Oct. 31.
In February 2019, areas in the affected counties suffered damage due to flooding, mudslides, straight line winds and tornadoes, including a tornado that cut through Columbus.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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