FEMA Notes Final Extension of Hurricane Hotel Program to Feb. 7

January 9, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported all Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees in the FEMA hotel/motel direct bill program will be subsidized by the federal program through at least Feb. 7 as they continue to make longer-term housing arrangements, consistent with a recent Court Order.

FEMA also will begin using a new authorization code process immediately to provide direct-bill hotel assistance beyond Feb. 7 to Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees on a case-by-case basis.

Evacuees in hotels and motels must contact FEMA by Jan. 30 at 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to receive a unique authorization code that must be presented to a hotel or motel to extend the federal subsidy for their hotel stay beyond the night of Feb. 6. FEMA payments for hotel or motel rooms will end on February 7 for those evacuees who do not contact FEMA for an authorization code. The code will also immediately be required for evacuees who change hotels or are checking in for the first time between now and Feb. 7.

“Great progress has been made across the country in helping families make the move out of hotels and motels into more comfortable, longer-term housing—a critical step in the road to recovery,” said Acting FEMA Director David Paulison. “We want to be sure that we are flexible, but aggressive in helping individuals and families with all of the FEMA assistance they are eligible to receive and make this important transition to a better quality of life. This authorization code process will help us work toward ensuring that no one eligible for assistance slips through the cracks.”

The FEMA authorization code program has a few, simple important dates:

* Feb. 7, 2006. If an evacuee does not get an authorization code by Jan. 30, 2006, FEMA will stop paying for that hotel room on Feb. 7, 2006.
* Feb. 13, 2006. If an evacuee gets an authorization code by Jan. 30, 2006, FEMA will continue to pay for that hotel room until at least Feb. 13, 2006.
* When an evacuee calls for their authorization code, FEMA will let them know when FEMA will stop paying for their hotel room.

It is important that every evacuee household in a hotel contact FEMA, as soon as possible, at 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to obtain an authorization code. If eligible, evacuees may receive cash rental assistance from FEMA for up to 18 months. Evacuees do not need to complete a Small Business Administration loan application to be eligible for FEMA housing assistance.

The authorization code will allow FEMA to work closely with families to ensure they are registered with FEMA for assistance and to ensure they are fully processed for rental assistance eligibility before making the transition to longer-term housing. Once a family has their unique authorization code, they will be authorized for a hotel reimbursement extension through at least Feb. 13 – two weeks following Jan. 30 – while FEMA processes their application. And in every case, FEMA will fund the hotel or motel room for evacuees for two weeks after they have received a determination on their request for assistance from FEMA -whether they are eligible to receive rental assistance or not.

More than 1,300 FEMA employees and partners, including 800 Community Relations strike force staff and 500 call center staff, are working directly with evacuees to help understand their options for moving out of hotels and motels and into longer-term homes, such as apartments. For evacuees who need more information about housing assistance:

FEMA’s Housing Locator Service:
1-800-762-8740 (open daily from 8 am – 9 pm EST)
TTY 1-800-462-7585

FEMA’s Help Line:
1-800-621-FEMA (open 24 hours daily)
TTY 1-800-462-7585

HUD Programs (general inquiries):
TTY is 1-800-877-8339

HUD Disaster Housing Assistance:
TTY 1-800-877-8339.

FEMA has so far provided rental assistance to more than 700,000 families affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Although most evacuees nationwide are already situated in apartments, trailers or other types of longer-term housing, approximately 27,000 still remain in hotels and motes nationwide. More than $400 million has been spent by FEMA to provide hotel and motel rooms rent free to evacuated individuals and families for nearly four months.

The announcement regarding the authorization code is consistent with a Court’s Order of Dec. 12, 2005. FEMA has presented this information to the Court in advance of its scheduled hearing later this week. FEMA moved to clarify the Court’s order on Dec. 27 and has been awaiting a hearing on that request for clarification.

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