FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, August 26, 2007
GOVERNOR BARBOUR RELEASES KATRINA TWO-YEAR REPORT
(JACKSON, Mississippi) - As the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal today released findings from state agencies reporting their recovery efforts during the past year.
The report reveals that the federal government has given an unprecedented $23 billion so far, and Katrina resulted in the largest temporary housing operation in American history. Travel trailers and mobile homes were given to 48,000 Mississippi families. Housing remains a critical issue, and the state continues to work to remove barriers that are restraining the housing boom. More than two-thirds of the families once in FEMA trailers are back in permanent housing.
Other milestones include the opening of the Bay St. Louis Bridge, reconnecting the residents and businesses in Hancock County and Harrison County. And the 80-mile stretch of the Mississippi Sound has been cleared of debris, offering one of the best shrimp seasons in years.
Unemployment rates were at pre-Katrina levels by the beginning of 2007, while both Phase I and II of the Homeowners Assistance programs are in full swing. Phase I has distributed nearly $1 billion to Gulf Coast homeowners and checks for Phase II are being finalized with over $55 million dollars given to applicants. In addition, multiple programs are in place to help create more affordable rental housing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Public school enrollment figures in the six southern-most counties totaled 94 percent of the pre-Katrina total. Despite the overwhelming circumstances that the disaster brought upon the students, they managed to achieve high marks on state accountability tests.
“All of this progress is critical, though it’s too slow to suit me. Still, I’m not only optimistic but absolutely confident about Mississippi’s future because of the spirit and character of our people,” Governor Barbour said.
The governor mentioned that many companies have chosen to locate in Mississippi because they admired the way citizens responded to the tragedy and that this response has done more than anything to improve the image of Mississippi.
Governor Barbour created the Office of Recovery and Renewal in early 2006 to undertake the task of long-term recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The primary focus of the Office is the implementation of long-term recovery plans and policies.
The two-year report describes accomplishments and assessments during the past 24 months in the following areas: housing, public infrastructure, economic development, education, human services, and environmental restoration and marine resources. The entire report can be downloaded at www.charlestonchronicle.net.