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Chairman Hopson signals funding for communities impacted by tornado

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Briggs Hobson, R-Vicksburg, speaks to committee members as they review proposed legislation to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and inject an additional $181.1 million into school budgets, Monday, March 6, 2023, at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Governor Reeves requested at least $5 million be designated to assist with disaster relief efforts in the communities impacted by the Friday tornado.

Just days before sine die, State Senator Briggs Hopson (R) has signaled that the Mississippi Legislature is attempting to make earmarks for communities devastated by the March 24th tornadic event.

Senator Hopson, who Chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said appropriators are working on numbers to provide state support for the areas of Humphreys, Sharkey, Carroll and Monroe counties.

“I definitely have funds appropriated for relief. The numbers on that and the areas or ways in which it will be used have not yet been decided,” said Hopson on Monday.

He said an appropriation for MEMA is a definite, to aid in disaster relief, as well as other specific appropriations that could impact schools, cities and counties.

“As you can imagine, this caught everyone off guard so we are trying to make sure we do the best thing we can for areas impacted by the tornadoes,” said Hopson.

Senator Hopson explained that in the event more funds are needed after the Legislature leaves for the year, Governor Tate Reeves could call them back in for a special session to make additional appropriations.

Governor Reeves said on Sunday that damage assessment has already begun.

Mississippi’s Disaster Trust Fund currently contains roughly $8 million. Governor Reeves said they reached out to the Legislature for at least $5 million specifically allocated to this latest disaster. More funding over that initial ask could also be appropriated by the Legislature.

“We made a request sometime yesterday to Senator Hopson, chairman of Appropriations who represents part of the county, and we made a request to Speaker Gunn, to give us approximately $5 million to get started,” said Reeves. “We will have the resources, though, to do whatever is necessary to work with our federal partners.”

President Joe Biden has approved a request for individual and public assistance which will be available for individuals and businesses in the areas impacted.

More information regarding the exact budget numbers will become clearer as the appropriations conferees continue to sign reports, further establishing the FY2024 budget.

Senator Hopson said there are still one or two sticking points between the chambers, which includes the increase in funding for MAEP at an additional $181 million. This push would fully fund the education program for the first time since 2007 while amending the formula.

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