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Mississippi governor wants $2.8 billion in Katrina funds spent

GULFPORT — South Mississippi has $2.8 billion of unspent money earmarked for Katrina rebuilding programs, and Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday he'd like to see the majority of those projects started by Sept. 1, or else the state might take it back.

Barbour spoke at the Gulf Coast Business Council meeting and said there is still $1.2 billion in FEMA public assistance money to be spent and about $1.6 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds remaining. The projects have been chosen, and the governor said he's most concerned about the CDBG money.

The money left for rebuilding projects is about the same amount as the state will receive from President Barack Obama's stimulus package.

"I'm proud of the progress that's been made, but we all know we have to step it up a notch," Barbour told a crowd of about 200 that included judges, mayors and supervisors. "I'm not being critical. I'm being honest about what needs to be done."

Barbour said the Katrina projects that remain will generate 18,000 jobs for the lower six counties.

To help get some of those rebuilding plans started, Barbour is meeting with the director of Homeland Security on Friday and will ask that any issues between local governments and FEMA be settled by June 30.

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