The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun to transition into longer-term housing more than 50,000 evacuees who sought shelter in Texas following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many still occupy short-term lodging in hotels and motels throughout the state in 110 counties.
The number of hotel and motel rooms presently occupied in Texas as of Nov. 14 is estimated at 18,500, with the majority in the following counties: Harris, 8,173; Dallas, 2,686; Bexar, 1,281; Tarrant, 1,085; and Galveston, 1,042. The agency currently is working with state and local officials, as well as area organizations, to transition evacuees into long-term housing by Dec. 1.
The Dec. 1 date coincides with the conclusion of FEMA’s Section 403 Emergency Housing Assistance Program used to reimburse state and local governments for hotel and motel rooms occupied by evacuees.
FEMA will continue to fund approved apartment placement programs coordinated by and/or co-signed by state and local authorities through Nov. 30. FEMA will discontinue emergency housing assistance reimbursements to state and local governments on March 1, 2006. FEMA also will pay any penalties for early lease-termination fees if evacuees decide not to stay.
“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created unprecedented housing needs,” said Federal Coordinating Officer for the Texas recovery effort, Sandy Coachman. “The focus of the next stage in the recovery effort is to help those displaced by the storms to achieve greater independence as they move on to rebuild their lives.”
To date, FEMA has provided more than $508 million in Individual Assistance (IA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Other Needs Assistance (ONA) to some 282,500 households and committed to reimburse more than $244 million in public assistance for temporary sheltering.
The Section 403 program offered those forced from their communities the flexibility to choose where to relocate. After Dec. 1, certain registered evacuees still may be eligible for up to $26,200 in Section 408 Individual Housing Assistance grants from FEMA, which can be used to pay for apartments or rental houses.
Unregistered homeowners or renters affected by hurricanes Katrina or Rita are urged to register. To register, check status or inquire about other help, such as crisis counseling or Disaster
Unemployment Assistance, applicants should visit their local FEMA disaster recovery center or contact FEMA’s Help Line at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.
For assistance in locating available housing, applicants may call FEMA’s toll-free Housing Locator Service from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at 866-373-9509 or TTY 800-877-8339 for hearing- and speech-impaired.
Individuals or families displaced from public housing or displaced homeless persons also may register with FEMA for a similar Department of Housing and Urban Development transition assistance program. For general inquiries about HUD programs, call 800-955-2232 or TTY 800-877-8339.
Maps showing the location of evacuees are available for the next two weeks at http://www.fema.gov/hotels.jpg and http://www.fema.gov/evacuees_map.jpg
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