FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2008
GOVERNOR BARBOUR RELEASES KATRINA THREE-YEAR REPORT
Full report available at www.governorbarbour.com
(JACKSON, Mississippi) - On the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Governor Haley Barbour today released a comprehensive report highlighting continued hurricane recovery efforts during the past year.
The report, compiled by the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, says housing remains the most critical issue facing the state, documenting that Mississippi is in the midst of the largest housing assistance effort ever undertaken by a single state.
Under Governor Barbour’s comprehensive housing plan, 71 percent of $5.4 billion received in federal hurricane recovery funds is being used for housing-related needs and issues. To date, the state has invested nearly $1 billion into programs to restore affordable housing for more than 27,000 workforce income level families along the Coast, and the Homeowners Assistance Program will have distributed more than $2 billion in direct housing assistance to homeowners at its conclusion this fall. Because of the state’s commitment to affordable housing, construction projects are expected to produce more affordable housing units on the Gulf Coast than existed before Katrina.
“The third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is a major milestone in our journey toward the recovery and renewal of South Mississippi and the Gulf Coast,” Governor Barbour said. “We have continued to make great strides since Katrina and, while the work isn’t done yet, I am very proud of the thousands of Mississippians, the public and private agencies, churches, and our federal partners whose efforts are so deeply appreciated.”
Due to assistance programs, the number of families still living in FEMA-provided travel trailers has dropped significantly. Of the 45,000 Mississippi families originally occupying FEMA-issued travel trailers and mobile homes, only 4,300 remain in them today. About 2,800 families are in safer, more permanent structures known as Mississippi Cottages, which were developed under the state’s Alternative Housing Program.
In terms of economic development, the Coast is making a solid comeback, the report found. Employment demand is strong, and local projects are spurred by incentives available through Community Development Block Grants, Gulf Opportunity Zone funds and other programs developed in the aftermath of the storm.
Restoration of the State Port at Gulfport is a crucial element to the overall recovery of the Gulf Coast; its full recovery will result in thousands of new jobs and will further revitalize the Gulf Coast economic engine.
The report also revealed Mississippi is more prepared for the threat of hurricanes than ever, due to improved response capabilities and stronger construction requirements, as well as the rise in personal flood insurance policies by homeowners. Since the storm, debris has been removed from the region, and the coastal environment and systems have been stabilized. State officials continue to work to restore coastal wetlands as well as barrier islands, which are crucial to protecting Mississippi’s coastline.
Other highlights of the report include restoration of basic infrastructure, which serves coastal residents at the same or improved capacity levels. In 2007, the opening of two major bridges, the Biloxi Bay Bridge and the Bay St. Louis Bridge, served as a major mark of progress, reconnecting the Coast; today, other projects, such as city halls and courthouses, as well as water/sewer infrastructure to support growing housing development, are under way.
Governor Barbour said he and First Lady Marsha Barbour continue to find strength in the spirit, character and resilience of Mississippians affected by Katrina, some of whom lost everything they owned. “Mississippians are totally committed to bringing the Coast back bigger and better than ever, and work will continue until the job is done,” he said.
Governor Barbour created the Office of Recovery and Renewal in early 2006 to undertake the task of long-term recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The primary focus of the office is the implementation of long-term recovery plans and policies.
The three-year report describes accomplishments and assessments during the past 36 months in the following areas: housing, public infrastructure, economic development, education, human services, nonprofits, disaster preparation and mitigation, and environmental restoration and marine resources. The entire report can be downloaded at www.governorbarbour.com.