Instead of asking for help from the county, Burnett relies on the goodwill of volunteers like Andrew Kimber.
Kimber, who lives in nearby Belzoni, is coordinating groups of volunteers helping to rebuild the homes of Burnett and his neighbors. He said it’s been difficult to watch as Burnett’s neighbors try to figure out their rebuilding options. Many don’t have a lot of money or enough homeowner’s insurance. While federal aid is available, he said it’s often not enough.
The maximum housing assistance limit uninsured or underinsured residents can receive from FEMA after a major disaster is $41,000, with an additional $41,000 for other assistance.
“FEMA can only help you up to $41,000,” Kimber said. “$41,000 is not enough to build a house. It’s not a pitch in the bucket.”
Across the six affected Mississippi counties, the US Small Business Administration has approved more than $20.1 million in long-term, low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses. FEMA has approved more than $12 million through its Individuals and Households Program, with more than $8 million approved for housing assistance.
In Humphreys County, where Silver City is located, the average amount of FEMA assistance paid to families is $3,773.04. In Sharkey County, where Rolling Fork is the county seat, the average is $7,258.36.
Federal assistance is not intended to replace homeowner’s insurance, FEMA guidelines say, but Kimber said it is — so far — the only help most people living in the poorest regions have received. in Mississippi after the storm. Some older residents are taking out large loans to rebuild their homes when they were previously living debt-free. It’s expensive, but donations and people are running out.
“When things happen, people come and help,” he said. “When you get to two to three weeks, everything is gone, and that’s when people realize they just have to take care of themselves.”