Gulfport Man Says Year Long Wait For Grant Too Long

A Gulfport man says he's living in limbo. Wayne Watkins says he applied for an elevation grant in April 2006. The federal grant, worth up to $30,000, is being administered by the Mississippi Development Authority. A year later, Watkins says he still has no idea when or if he'll get any money to elevate his home.

"I don't want to rebuild unless I rebuild up," said Watkins.

He longs to build back his house on what Katrina turned into an empty lot. He says new FEMA elevations require his new house be three feet higher. Watkins would like to go up even more.

"I had seven feet of water in the house, and I don't want to repeat it."

Watkins says he first applied for the elevation grant back in April of 2006. Then, he says, in November of that same year MDA told him he had needed to reapply. That was six months ago, and he still hasn't heard a word since.

"I find that after almost two years after the storm to not even know if we're going to get the elevation grants or not is not acceptable," said Watkins. "It's not acceptable at all. So we're all in limbo and we'll continue to be in limbo until we know if we can get the elevation grants. So  here I sit with an empty lot. "

Watkins says sometimes he feels the rebuilding process is just too difficult.

"There's the red tape of the denial by the insurance companies. The red tape of FEMA. The red tape of applying for the SBA loan and getting turned down and trying again. Then there was the red tape of applying for the federal loans and that process. Now the red tape of the elevation grants. I can only take so much. I'm about to the point that I'm red taped out. I've about had all I can have. I want to rebuild but why," he said.

Watkins says all he wants are answers so he can make the decisions.

"We've got to either do it or move on. A lot of people are making the decision to move on because we can't just sit and wait much longer."

On Friday, WLOX talked to MDA spokesperson Jennifer Spann who said there have been some modifications to how the elevation grants will be administered. MDA is waiting for HUD's final approval on the changes. Once that happens, she says, MDA hopes to start contacting applicants within 30 days.