Although it has been eight years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, the state has not yet spent $872 million in federal disaster relief funds.
The money is part of a $5.5 billion package given by Congress to the state to rebuild after the storm, which killed 238 people in Mississippi and was responsible for billions of dollars in damage, largely in the state’s coastal areas.
More than 50 percent of the unspent funds are tied up in a controversial plan to expand the state-owned port of Gulfport. In addition, millions of additional dollars have been allocated to redevelopment projects that have not yet been initiated.
“It’s very disheartening to know that the state of Mississippi has failed to fully take advantage of the federal disaster relief that is available to the state,” said Derrick T. Simmons, a Mississippi state senator, in an interview with BET.com.
“Katrina was a unfortunate historical event that will go down as one that affected the state severely," Simmons said. “I hope that these startling numbers will cause Mississippians to create an outcry that will lead the state into doing what it needs to do.”
Critics have charged that some rebuilding projects are far from the Katrina strike zone and don't seem to have a direct connection to recovery from the hurricane. They further complain that other projects have failed to take root or are not meeting promises of creating jobs.
Ashley Edwards, director of the Mississippi's Office of Recovery, said there were several reasons why the finds had not been spent, citing difficulty in some cases of meeting the federal requirements for some projects. He also said that some of the money had not been made available until recently.
However, he said that state officials have indicated that they plan to complete much of the outstanding redevelopment work within the next two years.
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(Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)