Wednesday, November 16, 2005

FEMA pushing Dec. 1 hotel check-out for 53,000 hurricane families

Critics urging FEMA review on hurricane housing deadlines

Many U.S. families forced to leave their homes by devastating storms have been told that funding for accommodation in hotels will be cut by Dec. 1.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in charge of the relief effort, has paid evacuees some $274 million since hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Almost 54,000 families are still living in hotels and motels in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi. FEMA wants people to move to temporary accommodations before finding new homes.

"There are still too many people living in hotel rooms, and we want to help them get into longer-term homes before the holidays," said David Paulson, acting director of FEMA. "Those affected by the storms should have the opportunity to become self-reliant again and reclaim some normalcy in their lives."

Starting Dec. 1, most families staying in hotels will either have to pay the bills themselves or cover the costs with FEMA housing aid. FEMA granted exceptions to evacuees in hotels in Louisiana and Mississippi, where a housing shortage exists. Evacuees in those states have until Jan. 7 to find homes.

Katrina hit on Aug. 29, followed by Rita on Sept. 24. In Houston, Mayor Bill White demanded that FEMA grant a similar extension to the city as it moves 19,158 evacuees out of city hotels.

"We have moved more evacuees out of hotels than any other city has ever had in hotels," White said in a statement. "So we encourage those new to it to ask us, not tell us, how to do it."

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on a House panel that oversees housing issues related to the hurricane, said FEMA was not giving the families enough warning.

"Two weeks' notice is outrageous," Frank said. "These are not people who can easily find alternative accommodations."

Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire calls the plan "a cruel injustice" to thousands of evacuees currently living in the state.

"This is devastating news to people who have already been through too much," Gregoire said in a statement. "As governor I must protest in the strongest terms."

Housing advocates said FEMA has not given evacuees enough time to find homes and sign leases - a process that can take months in rental markets already nearing capacity.

Relevant: Washington Post, Houston Business Journal

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2 comments:

Ms. Vickie said...

As usual the people are not being thought of at all it is what will be most cost effective. Someone has been busy doing some money crunching and come up with this as a quick fix for a leak or an attempt to shift the heat from others to this department. Just step back and watch, politics here at work getting dirtier ever day and who suffers the innocent who most need help. Sorry for my rant...Yes many sides of Vickie are being seen these days...Hope it was o-kay if not please just delete the comment.

Deb S. said...

Ms. Vickie, I think your points are quite valid. I also think we're going to see the very scenario you just described.

You are always welcome to stop by. I am going to enjoy seeing the many sides of Ms. Vickie. I would hardly call your comment ranting. But if you'd ever want to come here and do so, that's fine. I am a firm believer in free speech. :-)