County one step close to loan forgiveness

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors will have to wait a while longer before they hear from FEMA on whether their Special Community Disaster has been forgiven.

Board President J. Patrick Lee said the administration is currently working with CPA Eddie Favre to complete their paperwork to be forgiven on the FEMA loan forgiveness.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the county received the $4.6 million loan from FEMA after Hurricane Katrina in order to continue funding the county’s day-to-day.

The loan entailed stipulations against using the money to fund rebuilding projects, Lumpkin said.

He explained the process for the county to have the loan forgiven has been a bit more complicated because of records that show the county had an increase in revenue after the storm. However, Lumpkin said with the increased revenue which came from an influx in population, there was also an increase in operational expenses.

As an example, Lumpkin said the sheriff’s department received an increase in funding after the storm because they were housing Hancock County inmates, but in exchange jail operating expenses increased.

Lumpkin said part of the loan forgiveness process involves showing FEMA that the increased revenue wasn’t a normal part of their operations. If Hurricane Katrina hadn’t been so destructive, the county wouldn’t have seen an increase in income, the county administrator said.

All the information requested by FEMA is first submitted to a FEMA contracted analyst before being reviewed by FEMA, Lumpkin said.

He said the county submitted their paperwork to the analyst last week and he has until April 30 to make a ruling. After the analyst makes his recommendation, the county’s request for loan forgiveness will then be approved or denied by FEMA.

Lumpkin said he expects to receive an official response from FEMA by June, but the county will have more information by the end of April after the analyst has reviewed the paperwork.

Due the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, eligibility criteria for counties and municipalities changed. The changes allowed for loan recipients who had previously been deemed ineligible for the loan forgiveness to resubmit their application for review.

“None of this would be possible without Sen. (Thad) Cochran introducing the legislation and getting it passed,” Lee said.