GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Before a large crowd at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center, the news was well received: $132 million is coming to South Mississippi for housing repair and rehab. Governor Haley Barbour said those who need the help the most will be the ones getting it.
"It'll be for residents who have had problems or have been unable to repair their Katrina damaged homes to habitable conditions, even though they may have received some private assistance, their FEMA assistance," Gov. Barbour said.
One of those people is Occletta Norwood. She owns a Gulfport home that has a leaky roof and other damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. It's a home she can not afford to fix, so this program is just was she needed.
"It would be a good blessing, a real blessing that we have somebody to care about us and will see that we get back to where we came from," Norwood said.
As many as 5000 homeowners could be helped under the program. Dozens of them were on hand Monday for the announcement.
While the exact details of this program have yet to worked out, one thing was very clear: It's a bi-partisan effort on the part of the Obama administration and the Barbour administrations to get money into the hands of people who clearly need help after Katrina.
"No party has a claim to justice, no party has a claim to right or wrong," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said. "It is only when we put aside our differences and work across party lines, work across geographic and racial lines that we come to justice that we're celebrating today."
State officials hope to have details of the application process finished by the middle of this week. Applicants should be able to apply in person or online. The deadline is January 31, 2011.
Contractors who do the repair work will be paid directly by the state, to reduce any chance of fraud. The highest grant award will be $75,000.
This new agreement also means a lawsuit filed against HUD by coast housing advocates over the diversion of housing assistance money to pay for expansion at the Port of Gulfport has been dropped.
Click here to see more information on the plan submitted by the Mississippi Development Authority.