BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Proposed legislation in the nation’s capital could make it possible for a veterans home project on the Gulf Coast to move forward with construction.
Sen. Roger Wicker introduced the State Veterans Homes Relief Act on Thursday. If passed, it would provide $500 million for outstanding projects, including the $54 million Gulfport State Veterans Home at Tradition.
Wicker said he posed the new legislation after only $90 million was appropriated for State Veterans Homes this fiscal year, leaving dozens of approved SVH construction projects without funding, including the Coast veterans home. A groundbreaking ceremony for that facility was held in 2019, but the construction has been held up.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve the best possible support to meet their needs, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Wicker. “Eliminating the current backlog of State Veterans Home projects would provide critical upgrades to veteran housing across the nation, ensuring our former service members have safe and modern facilities to minimize transmission of infectious diseases and improve quality of care for years to come.”
The site awaiting construction in Harrison County will be a state-of-the-art facility, giving veterans on the Gulf Coast a place to call home.
“We’ll have CNAs, LPNs, RNs, a medical staff, full imaging, the whole medical care in advance stages. We will even have a dedicated memory care unit for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients,” said Executive Director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs, Stacey Pickering, who spoke about the project at the 2019 groundbreaking ceremony.
Once construction begins on the facility, it should take approximately 18 months to complete.
In addition to the 200 new nursing jobs the facility will create, it will provide a home for 100 veterans. Currently, the closest veterans home is in Collins, said Pickering.
According to Pickering, 26 percent of Mississippi’s veterans live in the three coastal counties, with Harrison County having the largest population by far thanks primarily to the VA hospital and bases located there.
Several grants for projects across the nation, including the Gulfport State Veterans Home, have been approved and are ready to start construction, but could be waiting for years for the necessary funds. By making this funding available immediately, Wicker said projects across the nation would be able to start construction to better serve veterans.
The State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the states. SVH constructs, renovates, and repairs state-owned and operated nursing homes, domiciliaries, and adult day health care facilities.
Mississippi has four SVH properties located in Collins, Jackson, Kosciusko, and Oxford. Each serve approximately 600 veterans.
Read the full text of the bill here.