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MEMA officials in town for Individual Assistance

Mississippi Emergency Management Association officials arrived in Batesville early Tuesday bringing with them the hope for much-needed cash assistance for many Panola County homeowners with property damage from the Easter Sunday storms.

Panola County qualified for Individual Assistance from MEMA following the April 12 high winds and flooding that felled hundreds of trees, damaged dozens of homes and outbuildings, and claimed the life of young woman.

Daniel Cole informed supervisors of the county’s designation for the IA funds at Monday’s meeting of the board, saying that it has been a “long, long time” since local property owners would have the opportunity to receive disaster relief money from MEMA.

The county usually qualifies for Public Assistance aid after weather disasters, but that money can only be used to pay overtime and reimburse actual costs for cleanup of county roads and bridges.

IA fund availability for Panolians means anyone with evidence of damage can meet with MEMA officials directly and be guided through the paperwork process. The Panola Extension Building at 394 Hwy. 51S, next to Shelter Insurance, will be the staging area for the state officials.

Cole has gathered a plethora of documentation and data from those with property damage since the storms hit in anticipation of a MEMA declaration. The local Emergency Operations office in recent years has made an effort to document every bit of property damage – public, business, and residential – after each disaster.

Often the county receives no federal or state aid when damages aren’t considered to be enough to warrant monetary help, but Cole said the persistent gathering of information and filings are beneficial because it keeps his office in constant contact with state officials and ensures that a direct line of communication is open when needed.

Cole said MEMA went through a soft opening beginning about 9 a.m. and were installing the last parts of their IT system to facilitate the meetings with property owners and the review process.

Panola residents were expected to begin filing their documents and meeting with agents Tuesday afternoon. Cole said anyone with questions about their damages should come directly to the Extension Building.