FEMA Offering Limited Hotel/Motel Extensions for La., Miss. Evacuees

February 23, 2006

As federal government emergency sheltering programs wind down in the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, work continues by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide longer-term housing assistance and housing locator services to all hurricane evacuees still remaining in hotels and motels nearly six months following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In Louisiana and Mississippi, where housing stock has been severely depleted due to hurricane damage, FEMA has extended all remaining hotel/motel authorization codes for evacuees occupying rooms in those two states to March 15, 2006. The implementation of an authorization code program by FEMA has allowed the agency to work with families on a case-by-case basis, extending codes as needed to allow for individual situations. The more than 7,400 codes set to expire prior to March 15 in Louisiana and Mississippi will now expire on that date.

“We have extended all of those hurricane evacuees in hotels and motels in these two states as we continue to work with each family to determine their eligibility for FEMA’s longer term housing assistance,” said Acting FEMA Director David Paulison. “However, we expect many to make their move to longer term housing way before that date.”

Emergency sheltering offered on cruise ships in Louisiana and Mississippi will come to a close on March 1, with the cruise ships departing to go back into service just a few days later.

“This has been an historic emergency sheltering effort that has assisted thousands of hurricane evacuees in their transition to longer-term housing,” said Paulison. “The process of recovery is difficult and we continue to provide rental assistance, apartment locator services and housing referrals to help evacuees take the next step in securing longer-term housing.”

More than 780,000 households have been helped with temporary housing assistance in the form of cash rental assistance or direct manufactured housing. This includes the 80,000 families now living in FEMA-provided manufactured homes placed on individual properties or in group sites.

Through presidential declarations issued in 44 states and the District of Columbia, 32 participating states and local partners have placed approximately 60,000 families into apartments that are being reimbursed by FEMA, in addition to those who have located apartments on their own using FEMA rental assistance. – more –

For the relative few families remaining in the FEMA hotel/motel emergency sheltering program nationwide, an authorization code program was implemented in early January. The authorization code program enabled FEMA to work more closely with families to help provide them with rental assistance or educate them on alternative housing options before their hotel subsidy ends. Longer-term rental assistance from FEMA, available for up to 18 months after the declaration, is for those uninsured or underinsured individuals whose primary home – whether owned or rented – was damaged to such an extent as to make it uninhabitable.

FEMA subsidized hotel rooms are ending at least two weeks after occupants received rental assistance from FEMA or referrals to other services. Currently, more than 3,000 codes issued in those states other than Louisiana and Mississippi will expire March 1. As those families receive long-term rental assistance, they too will join the hundreds of thousands of others who have already made that transition. Most recently, 12,000 codes expired nationwide on Feb. 13, with 88 percent of those families eligible to receive FEMA housing assistance.

FEMA has paid more than $562 million for hotel and motel rooms. With a peak of 85,000 rooms occupied in one night, thousands more families used FEMA’s transitional hotel program on their way to longer-term living.

Evacuees in hotels were made aware of the authorization code program through an aggressive outreach campaign which included ad buys in regional and national newspapers, broadcast public service announcements, outreach by community relations field teams and a series of six direct distribution flyers to evacuees under hotel room doors.

FEMA is referring those hurricane evacuees to many federal, state and private resources to meet longer-term housing needs.

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.

The nearly $5.2 billion is three times 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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