Mayor: Nearly $160 million in requests pending with FEMA

Biloxi currently has nearly $160 million in funding requests pending with FEMA, Mayor A.J. Holloway announced today.

Holloway, during remarks at a Biloxi Chamber of Commerce “Breakfast with the Mayor” gathering at IP Casino Resort this morning, said the city’s $159 million in requests is based on damage assessments at dozens of storm-damaged city-owned assets, including more than $60 million in damages to more than four dozen city facilities such as fire stations, museums and historic properties; as much as $15 million in damages to the city’s marinas, harbors and public piers; and more than $40 million and counting in debris removal costs.

Holloway said city staff and a team of architects, engineers and contractors have worked closely with FEMA in preparing the necessary documents – known as “project worksheets” or PWs – for nearly 150 projects in order to have any chance of qualifying for federal assistance to fund repairs necessary to restore public properties to their pre-storm condition or receive reimbursement for storm-related expenses. The FEMA funding would either cover any insurance shortfalls or would be reduced should the city later receive any insurance settlements.

“The city must fill out the PW to include such information as the name of the project, an assessment of the damage, and how much it will cost to return the facility to its pre-storm condition,” Holloway said. “FEMA then reviews each of the PWs and decides whether it’s approved and, if approved, sets aside the money.”

The requests range from as little as $2,500 for temporary fencing to protect a city-owned building to as much as $29 million for one of several debris-removal PWs. “In fact,” the mayor declared, “PWs for debris removal efforts alone total well over $40 million.”

Under the process, once FEMA approves a project and obligates funding, the city “will have teams of engineers begin preparing the scope of work and the construction specifications so we can get these projects out to bid. Then the projects are awarded and construction begins.”

Director of Administration David Staehling said that nearly all of the city’s damage assessments have been completed, and FEMA’s decision on the requests could be made in 60 to 90 days.

Said Staehling: “You hear different people say different things about FEMA, but in our experience we’ve found FEMA staff to be very professionalism and the technical advice they’ve provided us has been invaluable. The key is to make sure you have all of the required documentation, that you fill out the forms properly, and that you follow the established procedures.

“It’s a matter of accountability.”
To read the text of the mayor’s prepared remarks to the Biloxi Chamber group, click here.