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BY: Steve Wilson | Watchdog.org

For the Port of Gulfport, it’s five down and 1,295 jobs to go.

According to a memo obtained by Mississippi Watchdog, the port has added five of the 1,300 jobs it needs to create under the terms of a $570 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development received after the port was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Under terms of the grant, the port was supposed to retain 1,286 workers and add 1,300 more. Of the new jobs, 51 percent must be for low- or moderate-income people. One of the five jobs, according to the memo, fit this category. Of the 814 presently employed at the port, only one fits the requirements for income status.

“The port is important not only to the people of the coast area, but to all Mississippians,” said state Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Hinds County. “It is and should be a major driver of the state’s economy. The delays in its renovation and reconstruction are very disappointing. The possible penalties for failure to meet the jobs numbers could be disastrous for the whole state.”

HUD warned Mississippi if grant requirements aren’t met it could result in:

-termination of payments to the state
-reduction of payments for present or future Community Development Block Grants to the state by an amount equal to the funds “used without compliance”
-if HUD finds the state has “failed substantially to comply with a provision,” it could refer the matter to the U.S. attorney general to institute a civil action to recover improperly spent money.

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