Katrina Networking

I am using my networking and marketing skills to pass along vital information to organizations, volunteers and survivors of the 2005 hurricane season. Grants, networking, advocating, assistance resources, articles and more. Updated regularly to better assist you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MS Development Authority

3.27 Scam
Dear Colleagues and Organization Representatives,

Please forward this to all of your contacts! I have sent this to the entire list serves(I have) for STEPS and Rebuild Jackson County.

A member of the ECD/HOPE staff was alerted today of a potential scam taking place. A group is calling and emailing folks (especially senior citizens) claiming to be MDA. They have a logo,etc that appears to be official. They tell applicants that certain information is needed to complete the application for Phase I or Phase II grants and then they get the applicant’s personal information.

Please let people know that MDA/Reznick has a policy where they never ask for personal info over the phone or via email. If people are solicited, it is NOT an authorized contact. If more details emerge, we will keep you posted.


Christy M. Hahn 228-466-8267
Executive Director
Hancock County Long Term Recovery Committee
5380 Kiln Delisle Rd.
Kiln, MS 39556

1/15 How-To Manual For Grant Program!
Understanding Mississippi's Homeowner Assistance Grant Program has gotten alot easier thanks to a team of attorneys from a nationwide law firm, NixonPeabody LLP, and the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), the Jackson- and Biloxi-based nonprofit, public interest law firm. Together they have produced a new manual and website, already in use, that gives detailed explanations of the homeowner grant program and its appeals process. The new manual will be used by MCJ staff attorneys and out-of-state volunteer lawyers at four free legal clinics on the Coast, January 19; two of the clinics (Gulfport and Biloxi) will provide help in Spanish and Vietnamese, respectively. When MCJ asked Nixon Peabody to help assemble the manual for Mississippi homeowners and lawyers, specialists at the full-service law firm responded pro bono, which means their work was free.
The new manual can also be used to help volunteer lawyers determine if a homeowner is eligiblefor a grant.
Nixon Peabody has also established a Mississippi Homeowners'Assistance Grant Program special resource site at http://micdbgappeals.nixonpeabody.com/default.aspx
Jeffrey W. Sacks, apartner in Nixon Peabody's Affordable Housing practice, says "Giving back to the community through pro bono service is a part of the fabric of NixonPeabody. When the devastation of Hurricane Katrina occurred, we wanted to determine how we could best put the knowledge and insight of our nationally recognized affordable housing practice to use for those most in need. Our commitment to assist the Mississippi Center for Justice and the volunteer lawyers working with its organization is just one of many steps NixonPeabody is taking to help with the rebuilding and housing revitalizationeffort along the Gulf Coast."
According to Karen Lash, MCJ's National Pro Bono Coordinator, "There's been widespread confusion about this grant program and the rules have changed many times. Thanks to Nixon Peabody, our lawyers now have an important reference tool - and volunteer lawyers can be quickly trained to help handle the swelling number of homeowners' concerns about the program, their award amount, and their appeal rights." In addition to the Nixon Peabody
manual, the new web site also has a "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" page to help grantees understand the grant program. The FAQ section was written pro bono by lawyers at Citigroup and The Lawyer's Committee for CivilRights Under Law. Print copies of the FAQ are available from MCJ and will also be distributed at future clinics. For more information about the MCJclinics, how the manual is being used to help Mississippi Gulf Coast residents or if you are a lawyer interested in volunteering with MCJ and want more information, please call 228-435-1075.
For more information on other Gulf Coast housing and rebuilding efforts being led by Nixon Peabody, contact Andrea Goodman at agoodman@nixonpeabody.com or 617-345-1381.
Mississippi Center for JusticeP. O. Box 1023 Jackson, MS 39215-1023 Phone: (601) 352-2269

11/23 Phase II Beginning
Details of Phase Two of Homeowner Assistance ProgramFrom: Office of the Governor Filed 11/20/06 GCN
Homeowners who did not qualify under the original multibillion-dollar grant program have another opportunity to apply for assistance to repair, rebuild or relocate under a second phase that has opened for public comment.
Phase Two of the Homeowner Assistance Program will provide funding up to a maximum of $50,000 for low to moderate income homeowners whose primary residence suffered flood surge damage from Hurricane Katrina. Such homeowners may qualify regardless of whether they were uninsured or under-insured and regardless of whether their homes were inside or outside the federally-delineated flood plain.
The original program covered about 15,000 families and the second phase opens new opportunities for assisting more people, Governor Haley Barbour said.
“We’ve been working with the federal government for months to develop this second phase in order to help as many as 10,000 more families,” Governor Barbour said.
Phase Two includes a special needs feature under which eligible applicants who are age 65 or over, or who are disabled, or who have household income at or below 60 percent of the Average Median Income can get up to an additional $25,000, or a total of $75,000.
Also, an additional grant of up to $30,000 is available to help eligible applicants defray the cost of elevating their homes, if necessary.
Generally, a qualifying homeowner must have a household income at or below 120 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI), or about $63,000 a year for a family of four.
As with the original program, anyone who receives a grant under Phase Two and is rebuilding will have to elevate their home out of the flood plain, build consistent to the International Building Code/International Residential Code, and carry flood insurance.
In addition, Phase Two grant recipients must agree to a covenant on their property that establishes building code, homeowner insurance, and elevation requirements for them or any future owner of the land; and agree to remain at that site for three years, or relocate elsewhere in George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson or Pearl River counties.
Like the initial phase, this second phase of the program will be funded from the $4 billion allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The starting point for each individual grant calculation will be the cost to repair or rebuild the structure based on a damage assessment approved by the Mississippi Development Authority.
In addition to the homeowner grants through the first and second phases, Governor Barbour said the federal government has also allowed the state to allocate $100 million of the grant funds for restoration of public housing in the three coastal counties. The state is also working closely with HUD to fund more restoration of rental housing and other modifications to the original grants program.
Families that have already applied for the original phase of the program or already registered for follow-on programs do not have to re-register to be considered for Phase Two; however, homeowners who are uncertain are encouraged to go ahead and re-register. New applicants should call 1-866-369-6302 to schedule an application appointment.
This proposed modification – Number 4 Phase II – is open for public comment. Copies of the entire plan are available by written or telephone request from the Mississippi Development Authority call center (1-866-369-6302), or on the Internet at http://www.mississippi.org/. The modification will be available in Vietnamese and Spanish translations at the same website.
Written comments regarding this proposed modification may be mailed to the Mississippi Development Authority, Post Office Box 849, Jackson, MS 39205 or sent via facsimile to (601) 359-9280. Comments may also be submitted online to hoacomments@mississippi.org. Comments must be received no later than December 8, 2006.

Change of Leadership http://www.gulfcoastnews.com/GCNnewsMDAleadershipchange.htm

Governor Haley Barbour announced today that Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority since the beginning of the Barbour Administration, is returning to the private sector and will be replaced by Gray Swoope, MDA's chief operating officer.
The change will become effective at the end of the year. Governor Barbour characterized the change as a seamless transition in the leadership ranks of the state agency tasked with creating new and higher paying jobs through economic development and business enhancement.
"Leland Speed is one of this state's most outstanding business leaders and came into government from the private sector so he could be of service to the people. He has done a fabulous job as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority and I am grateful for his service. State government needs more people like him," Governor Barbour said.
The Governor also praised the leadership that Swoope has demonstrated over the past three years in his position as MDA's Chief Operating Officer."Gray Swoope has been the man behind the details of all of the important initiatives undertaken by MDA since the beginning of my Administration," Governor Barbour said. "He is thoroughly immersed in all aspects of Mississippi's economic development program and initiatives, and I am delighted to say that with his elevation to the top spot we won't miss a beat."

11/20 Homeless Shelter Grants
The State HOME Program makes funds available to countygovernments and certified Community Housing Development Organizations(CHDOs), incorporated municipalities, not designated by HUD as local participating jurisdictions or Consortium.
Emergency Shelter Grant Programs (ESG) funds are used to provide assistance to homeless individuals and families. They can be used for shelter improvements, maintenance and operations of shelters, homeless assistance with supportive housing, and ultimately, permanent housing.
Alert your local communities of this program!!!
For more information contact:
Community Services DivisionGrants Management BureauTelephone: 601.359.3179
Website: http://www.mississippi.org/content.aspx?url=/page/2769&

11/20 Community Development Block Grants
(Hyperlinks probably won't work)
The Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) helps the local units of government realize their potential by providing funds necessary to ensure decent housing, basic community services, environmental quality and economic opportunities for their residents. The State CDBG Program makes funds available to the local units of government except for the entitlement cities that show a genuine need for specific projects and can meet the program's state and federal eligibility requirements. In accordance with the Community Development Act of 1974, as amended, project activities must meet at least one of the following national objectives:
Benefit low- and moderate-income persons;
Aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight;
Meet urgent needs because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community and other financial resources are not available to meet such needs.
A local unit of government may apply for CDBG funds in the Public Facilities, Economic Development, Mississippi Micro-Enterprises Development Demonstration and Community Asset Development and Sustainability Planning Demonstration categories.
The Public Facilities category provides funding for public improvements such as water, wastewater, drainage, streets and certain public buildings. This category includes a Regular Competition for funds as well as a Small Government and Emergency Set Asides, and Community Self-Help Program. The Self-Help Category provides funding for public improvements such as water, wastewater, downtown improvements and recreational improvements. Some Public Facilities projects may be funded under the stringent Urgent Needs/Emergencies national objective. An Urgent Needs/Emergencies project must prove a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community and meet other criteria such as the date of occurrence of the emergency condition.
The Economic Development category provides funding to the local units of government for eligible infrastructure improvements in the support of business start-ups and expansions. Job creation is the key to CDBG-assisted economic development. Economic Development Public Improvements subcategory provides grants to local governments on behalf of businesses for the provision of needs such as water, sewer and access roads. Economic Development Loans may be used for capital improvements, equipment or working capital at the discretion of the Community Services Division.
The Mississippi Micro-Enterprises Development Demonstration category provides funding in support of Micro-Enterprise business endeavors. Grants are awarded to eligible the local units of government that are then loaned to specific for-profit businesses, or a local units of government may contract with an eligible non-profit organization that is directly involved with Micro-Enterprise development.
The Community Asset Development and Sustainability Planning Demonstration is to assist L/M communities having a need for community planning to improve economic viability or quality of life.
For more information, please select the categories listed below:
Public Facilities (Regular, Small and Urgent Needs/Emergencies)
Economic Development
Micro-Enterprises Development Demonstration
Community Asset Development and Sustainability Planning Demonstration
The CDBG Final Statements provide the category allocations, specific information, special conditions, and threshold requirements.
Community Services Division
Telephone: 601.359.3179
Fax: 601.359.9311

MS Grant Statistics
11/18 Checks Given* The state has sent out 5,701 checks to Mississippi Gulf Coast homeowners who suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina, program supervisors said Thursday

Barbour orders grants increased - On average, some will receive $15,000 more
PASCAGOULA - A majority of those who have received or will receive Hurricane Katrina homeowner grant checks will be getting more money than originally estimated, per Gov. Haley Barbour's orders.
About 85 percent of those who had been approved for grants and told an amount before Oct. 23 will receive more money, an average of $15,000 more. These homeowners don't have to wade through any more paperwork or meetings for this increase, officials said. The recalculations are being made automatically and will not further delay the process, they said. But $150,000 is still the maximum, and officials stressed that not everyone will receive an increase and that $15,000 is an average.
Apparently, kinks in the months-delayed grant program are being worked out after an angry Barbour, who is ultimately in charge of how it is run, ordered changes weeks ago. The program as of Thursday morning had doled out 3,162 checks, compared to the less than 200 that had been paid out just a few weeks ago.
Barbour had received much praise for using his Washington clout last year to help convince Congress and HUD to approve up to $5 billion for a Katrina homeowner bailout. No such help has ever been given after other natural disasters. But as the program dragged on months beyond when Barbour and others had estimated people would be receiving checks, that praise turned to criticism from homeowners desperately wanting to rebuild and leave their FEMA trailers. Others argued - and nearly 2,000 formally appealed - that the grant amounts for which they were approved were too low.
Barbour himself criticized the slowness, although he said federal red tape and problems with insurance and mortgage companies not providing information was causing much of the delay. Barbour ordered changes, such as allowing people to fill out affidavits to sidestep logjams when insurance companies or others won't provide info. He also told administrators to err on the side of the homeowners when calculating the grant amounts.
A top Barbour advisor and an official with the company hired to run the Katrina grant program toured the Coast on Wednesday and Thursday, meeting with government, nonprofit and community leaders, and the media.
"For this to work, all these people have to play nice: SBA, FEMA, HUD, MDA, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry, the title insurance industry, the governor's office, local chancery clerks and outside contractors," said Paul Raffensperger of the Maryland-based Reznick Group, hired by the Mississippi Development Authority to run the program.
As the homeowner grant program began to stumble and miss the optimistic deadlines that state officials had set for getting checks out to people, county supervisors said they were the ones who most often heard about it.
And in Jackson County, by far the county with the most homeowner grant applicants, supervisors' phones rang off the hook. People couldn't get information through the MDA hotline and didn't have anywhere else to turn.
Supervisors John McKay and Manly Barton at a meeting Thursday explained to Jim Perry, with the governor's staff, that it was frustrating because they didn't have answers either, but tried to act as liaisons for the people and at first had trouble getting through to MDA and the governor's office themselves.
Perry and Raffensperger explained one major change is the MDA centers that have reopened in each county are now real service centers with answers for the public and workers who can be advocates to help homeowners receive the most from the program.
Both McKay and Barton said the most bitter feedback they received were in cases where neighbors with similar homes and very similar damage received very different damage assessments from the inspectors for the grants.
Though Raffensperger blamed human error and a glitch in the formula used to calculate damage, he also said that some of it just couldn't be explained. But he pointed to the fact that the governor took care of that problem, allowing the grant program to go with the highest damage estimate a homeowner receives, be it SBA or grant inspectors.
McKay said it is obvious that the state is making improvements. The number of calls he's getting has dropped off, "but there's still some heartburn out there over what makes one house 11 percent damaged and another next door 90 percent.
"All in all it is turning out pretty good. The federal government gave us the money. The governor led the charge," he said.
State Democratic leaders have been making much political hay against Barbour over delays in grants and other problems.
Perry said he doesn't know whether the problems would hurt Barbour - who stands for re-election next year - politically on the Coast. But he said he doubts the governor cares.
"The governor and all the people working seven days a week on this are not motivated by politics in this. Their motivation is to help as many people as possible.
"I would be surprised if (Barbour suffers politically) by a program that is the first of its kind, that the governor proposed and successfully got funding for and has implemented, that means thousands of homeowners get assistance they normally wouldn't have gotten, and thousands more will be soon. I would be surprised, but even if it does, it was worth it," Perry said.
"We are not working toward the election right now. We are trying to help people recover."

Homeowner grants
Q: What's been taking so long? Why haven't I gotten a check?
A"We didn't anticipate initial, fierce opposition from the mortgage industry," said Jim Perry, Barbour's chief of policy. "We didn't anticipate that would drag things out by five months to begin with. We didn't anticipate that it would take several months to get reliable, usable data from SBA and we didn't anticipate that many of the 200 insurance companies we had to deal with would be unwilling to provide information. There's still no excuse, and nobody's been happy with the pace. But you have to consider we are still only six months out from when HUD approved the money.
Homeowner grants
Some answers to frequently asked questions about the Katrina homeowner grant program, which is federally funded but run by the Mississippi Development Authority and, ultimately, Gov. Haley Barbour:
Q: Have state leaders been dragging their feet on sending grant checks in order to collect interest on the billions in federal money?
A: No. The state is not collecting interest. The money is allocated on a "draw-down" basis. As checks are issued, HUD sends the money to the state.
Q: Have any homeowners been dragging their feet?
A: Apparently. Of the nearly 10,000 who have been sent "closing packets," only 6,000 have completed and returned them.
Q: I had an SBA loan, but I have received my full grant payment. Was this a mistake? Will I have to give the money to SBA later?
A"Go ahead and cash it," said Paul Raffensperger of the Reznick Group, the company hired to run the grants. He said SBA makes its own calculations about "duplication of services" and how much of the grant should be paid to it. If you receive a check, Raffensperger said, it's yours, although you will still have to live by whatever loan repayment agreement you have with SBA.
Q: I sold my home before I received a grant. Will I still get one?
A: Only if you can get the buyer to sign an agreement to meet stipulations that include rebuilding to international code and federal flood elevation rules and carrying federal flood insurance. Officials said there is no exception for this. Raffensperger said some of the new homebuyers are signing the agreements, but others have refused. He said some are "bartering," or trying to get money from the person they bought from before they'll sign.
8/5 - MS Homeowner Grant Red Tape
An exerpt
The process will take time. The MS Development Agency says it will soon start sending out as many as 500 notices a day and that will take at least 34 days. It is the closing meetings that will take time. Homeowners have to appear in person at the closings to sign documents. If the MDA can handle a hundred closings a day, and each takes 15 minutes, which is an optimistic speed, it will take at least eight months to process all the claims. It is likely that many homeowners will not see a check any sooner than well into next yea

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22 November, 2010 09:40  

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