Neighbors Question Katrina Grant Fairness - - The News for South Mississippi

Neighbors Question Katrina Grant Fairness

Lorraine Weston says something is wrong with the way Mississippi is figuring damage assessments for the Katrina Grant Program.

"Something is definitely wrong with that picture. We understand that the dollar figure will be different for everyone. But the damage assessment should be within one or two percent of each other for the whole area," said Weston.

Yet neighbors who compared grant applications say the state's damage assessments in their Pinehurst neighborhood range from 11 percent to 72 percent; a 61 percent variation.

"We found ourselves in the attic in the middle of the afternoon," said Ed Carson, who rode out the hurricane with his wife Ava in their brick home.

The home took six feet of water. But the state's damage figure was much lower than two other assessments.

"One is 82 percent from the county and one is 96 percent from SBA. We received 49 percent," said Carson.

His wife says 49 percent is too low.

"Everyone here must have had at least, minimum 70 percent damage. And some more," said Ava Carson.

"I have pictures if you want to see. The whole house was studs," said Pamela Radix, while showing visitors her home.

Like so many storm damaged homes, Pamela Radix's house is a work in progress. She finds the discrepancy in damage assessments disturbing.

"Sixty two percent difference? There's something wrong there. There's something wrong there," she said, shaking her head.

She says the variation is more than a few numbers on paper. Futures are at stake.

"Some people depend on this money to repair their house. Otherwise, they're going to lose their house. They're going to have to walk away. And if they walk away from their house, they're probably going to have to walk away from Mississippi too," said Radix.

One of the neighbors who's complained did receive a letter from the government, but it doesn't provide any answers about the seemingly unequal treatment. It only offers a process for appeal.

"It is a waste of money for every single individual in this area to have to appeal. We shouldn't have to have all these individual appeals," said Weston.

Scott Hamilton is a spokesman for the grant program, administered by the Mississippi Development Authority.

He told WLOX News, "I don't have any specific answer for those concerns."

Hamilton added, the damage assessment process is "somewhat subjective."

He did encourage home owners with questions or concerns about their grants to file an appeal of the award. They can accept the award given, while still appealing the amount. Appeal forms are included in the home owner grant packet.

By Steve Phillips

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