Housing assistance announced for evacuees

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

Contributed Report

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced a series of measures to accelerate the delivery of Federal assistance and provide transitional housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Together, these Federal programs will help all displaced individuals and families obtain needed stability, while providing them with flexible housing options as the country works to rebuild communities throughout the Gulf Coast region.

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“Our goal is to use existing resources in an innovative way to help all displaced individuals and families move from temporary shelters to more stable, safe and sufficient housing,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Through this coordinated effort, the Federal government is taking quick and immediate action to cut through red tape and deliver immediate assistance to evacuees.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will expedite housing assistance to all evacuees unable to meet immediate housing needs with combined efforts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Evacuees from the hardest-hit portions of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana generally fall into four distinct types of households: previous homeowners, renters, individuals who lived in public housing, and those who were homeless prior to the hurricane.

Evacuees must register through FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or applying online at www.fema.gov for Federal disaster assistance.

It is important that individuals and households promptly update their FEMA registration information with any change of address or new telephone numbers so they may receive assistance in a timely and direct manner.

Through FEMA’s Individual and Households Program (IHP), DHS will process expedited transitional housing assistance for qualified homeowners and renters displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Because not all evacuees are eligible for assistance through the IHP program, displaced families, including formerly HUD assisted evacuees and those unable to verify occupancy, will qualify for the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program administered by HUD.

Evacuees eligible for housing assistance through IHP will receive an initial three month rental assistance payment in the form of check or electronic fund transfer in the amount of $2,358.

This initial payment is calculated based on the average fair market rent rate for a two-bedroom unit nationwide.

This payment is portable and may be applied to transitional housing costs for any location an evacuee determines. In addition to payment, eligible households will receive a letter describing specific program rules and guidelines on eligible uses of funds.

IHP recipients have a legal obligation to meet document reporting requirements (such as submission of rental receipts) and each must comply with Federal program audit requirements.

During the recertification process, FEMA may adjust the relevant fair market rate for the location and family size of each eligible household.

“Today we are offering residents more than just a roof over their head,” said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

“This is an opportunity for thousands of the victims of Hurricane Katrina to get back on their feet as they pick up the pieces and start anew.

This Administration remains committed to filling the housing void in the Gulf Coast region and we will continue to work with our partners to help reunite families and provide hope and healing to those who need it most.”

Housing assistance provided through the HUD’s Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program will be administered through the established network of local public housing authorities (PHAs) across the country.

Through this program, relocation specialists will be on hand to assist individuals and families in locating a rental unit based on the needs of the family. Eligible individuals and households may contact local housing authorities nationwide to participate in this program.

Participants will receive housing assistance that can be redeemed for both public and private housing units in any community at the discretion of the participant.

Rents will be calculated at 100 percent of the fair market rate in the community the evacuee chooses to relocate.