After funding more than 3.3 million hotel/motel room nights in order to provide tens of thousands of families with emergency housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is winding down the program and continuing its efforts to transition those displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to longer term housing solutions.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, FEMA has paid over $522 million for hotel and motel rooms as part of the more than $6 billion in financial and housing assistance provided to nearly 1.5 million victims. With a peak of 85,000 rooms occupied in one night, thousands of families used FEMA’s transitional hotel program on their way to longer-term living.
The short-term lodging program was initiated as a key component of FEMA’s temporary housing strategy to help individuals and families displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many evacuees sought immediate shelter in mass shelters established in the impacted states and relocated to communities throughout the country as part of the nation’s largest airlift in its history. The mass overnight shelter population peaked at 273,000 on Sept. 5, 2005.
“Our hotel and motel program successfully provided evacuees with safe, comfortable and private temporary homes while their eligibility for FEMA’s long-term housing assistance was determined,” said Acting Director David Paulison. “Across the country, there are readily available, long-term housing options for victims displaced by the 2005 hurricanes that will help families take another step towards regaining a sense of normalcy in their lives.”
More than 75 percent of the 26,000 evacuees still living in hotels and motels contacted FEMA to receive an authorization code prior to the publicized Jan. 30, 2006 deadline. In order to receive the authorization code and hotel/motel room extension, callers were required simply to confirm their status as a hurricane evacuee and register with FEMA if not already. Of those remaining in hotels and motels, nearly 24,000, or 92 percent, are in six states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas).
“The authorization code program has enabled us to work more closely with families to help us make certain we have provided them with rental assistance or let them know of alternatives before a hotel subsidy ends,” said Paulison. “It is also helping us be certain that our federal taxpayer dollars are supporting hurricane evacuees and not those who might take advantage of a program for disaster victims.”
An aggressive outreach campaign which included ad buys in regional and national newspapers, broadcast public service announcements, community relations field team hotel outreach and a series of six direct distribution flyers to evacuees under hotel room doors made evacuees in hotels aware of the authorization code program.
FEMA provides long-term housing assistance through rental assistance as well as direct housing such as travel trailers and mobile homes. More than 750,000 households have been provided housing assistance since Katrina made landfall, which includes 70,000 families living in FEMA-provided manufactured homes placed either on individual properties or in group sites in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Assistance has also been made available through states and the District of Columbia that received presidential emergency declarations to support the sheltering needs of evacuees. In 32 of those 44 states, apartment leases were entered into on behalf of evacuees by their host state or an entity partnered with the state. These organized apartment placement programs have placed approximately 60,000 families in addition to the leases entered into by evacuees using rental assistance from FEMA.
FEMA is also referring hurricane evacuees to federal housing options that have been made available by other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Development and Fannie Mae. In addition, individuals not eligible for FEMA housing assistance because they were not homeowners or renters before Hurricane Katrina or Rita may be eligible for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program.
Hurricane Katrina has already resulted in the largest allotment of financial and housing assistance under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Assistance Program (IHP) in the agency’s history with the nearly $5 billion tripling the assistance provided following California’s Northridge Earthquake in 1994.
Hurricane Rita, which has surpassed the $1 billion mark for IHP allocations, is approaching the $1.1 billion provided to victims of the four major Florida hurricanes in 2004 combined.
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