Clay County was included Wednesday evening with the 36 Mississippi counties that were given a federal declaration for public assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)
The declaration for public assistance comes just one week after the county was given a federal declaration for individual assistance to residents whose homes, businesses and other property were destroyed in last month's flooding and EF3 tornado.
Through public assistance, Clay County is eligible for a reimbursement grant of 75 percent for emergency and permanent work that includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, repairs to road systems, bridges, public-owned buildings, water control facilities, public-utility systems, parks and recreational facilities.
“This declaration will allow local governments as well as state governments to recover costs and losses caused by the storms,” said governor Haley Barbour in a press release. “Towns, cities and counties can now begin to rebuild and recover.”
District 3 supervisor and county board president R.B. Davis, whose district suffered the most damage from the April 27 tornado that touched down in Montpelier, said county supervisors as well as West Point/Clay County Emergency Management officials have been praying and waiting patiently on a federal declaration for public assistance that will be a huge help in removing the massive amounts of debris that have collected and getting roads and public buildings back in proper condition.
“We're extremely proud to be receiving this assistance, and we're happy that FEMA recognized the seriousness of the damage we have here. We're thankful to them for seeing how much of a burden it would have been on the county to get things back in order without their assistance,” Davis said. “We've been working diligently, trying to take care of debris cleanup, and appreciate the city, county workers and others who have pitched in and helped us out.”
The FEMA grant will also help pay for extra labor and equipment the county is using to help with the clean up in the aftermath of the disasters.
Johnnie Littlefield, West Point fire chief and director of the West Point/Clay County Emergency Management, said hard work on the part of residents, supervisors, the Emergency Management team and others who saw the county's needs paid off this week.
“Once FEMA and MEMA comes in to assess, it takes a little time for us to hear back from them, but we finally got it done, and we can finish the work that needs to be finished,” Littlefield said. “This is just a big, big help. Everyone out there has been working so hard and has done a good job.”
The public assistance reimbursement process for the county will be discussed after the county schedules a briefing with FEMA and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA.)
FEMA encourages county supervisors and workers to continue keeping up with man hours, equipment used, cost of fuel, cubic yards of debris collected and any other type of work done due to the flood and tornado so that it can be considered when FEMA decides on the county's reimbursement amount.
* The FEMA/MEMA Disaster Recovery Center that is set up at the Pheba Voting Precinct will be closing Saturday, May 28. Any individuals affected by the flood or tornado disaster who have not met with FEMA/MEMA officials are encouraged to do so to receive assistance that is available upon eligibility. The Pheba Voting Precinct is located at 21523 Highway 50 West in Clay County, and the Recovery Center will be open each day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. until May 28.