Groups Protest Governor's Grant Plan For Rebuilding - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Groups Protest Governor's Grant Plan For Rebuilding

"This is the living room," said Jessica Ricard as she pointed toward the ground.

A slab is all that's left of Ricard's home on Necaise Street. She was renting the house under a lease purchase agreement.

"We lived here eight and a half years, and we had only seven years left to be able to own it," Ricard said with tears in her eyes. "Now, we have nothing."

Ricard moved here, after her five-year old stepson died in an accident in the Waveland neighborhood. And this is where she wants to rebuild to raise her other three children.

"When my stepson died, I promised him that I would never leave this house," Ricard said.

But as a renter, Ricard is not eligible for the grant program that pays eligible hurricane victims up to $150,000. The humanitarian relief group Oxfam America says that's not fair.

Deborah Bey is a member of Oxfam.

"Almost 50 percent of the people who are affected by Hurricane Katrina were renters. We're not saying give renters a grant. We're saying build back affordable housing so people have a place to live."

Bey says it's also unfair to exclude people who live in flood zones, as well as uninsured homeowners who live outside the flood plain.

"The people who were the hardest hit for Hurricane Katrina were low and moderate income individuals. The governor has asked for a stipulation. He wants the money spent for that group be waived. That means this money potentially won't go to the people who are hardest hit," Bey said.

That's why the group is launching a petition drive to get more people to protest the restrictions in the plan. The volunteers have handed out about 1,500 letters. So far, they've received about 1,000 signatures. But time is running out. The volunteers have to make sure the letters reach the governor's office by Friday.

Jessica Ricard hopes her signature will make a difference and encourage the governor to change his mind, so she will be included in the grant program.

"I want to stay here, because I've grown up in Waveland. I've always lived here, and I want my children to grow up here," Ricard said.

The period for the public to comment on the governor's grant proposal ends on Friday. The governor and the Mississippi Development Authority will review the comments and make final changes, if necessary. He'll then submit the plan to HUD for approval.

Click here to submit your comments, or to just learn more about the Hurricane Katrina Homeowner's Grant Program.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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