FEMA extends hotel cut-off

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 28, 2005

REGION – The Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving victims of Hurricane Katrina a little extra time to find permanent housing. However, there has been some confusion as to how long the extension will be.

Recent reports said the deadline had been extended from Dec. 1 to Jan 7 for all states. But FEMA spokesman Jay Eaker said, for many locations, the deadline was actually in the middle of the two dates.

“There has been a little confusion about the deadline change,” Eaker said. “The deadline has actually only been extended until Dec. 15. There are 10 states, Alabama being one of them, that can have their deadline extended to Jan. 7.”

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Other states include Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas.

When contacted, Demopolis hotels said all evacuees using their hotels for temporary lodging have moved on. But throughout the rest of the state, according to FEMA officials, many remain.

Eaker said like many other states bordering the Gulf Coast region, Alabama was a convenient location for evacuees.

“There are lots of evacuees in Alabama,” Eaker said. “So we have been calling the hotels and talking to evacuees to see how we can help them find housing.”

In a release announcing the change Acting FEMA Director David Paulison said the extension was their way of helping evacuees through a very difficult process.

“Our top priority remains addressing the long-term needs of millions of hurricane victims,” Paulison said. “Today we offered an extension to the end of the hotel program because we are committed to working with Governors and Mayors to move evacuees out of hotels and into long-term housing.”

Many evacuees have found it difficult to find suitable housing, Paulison said. He said it was a problem that could be solved by teamwork.

“We recognize that finding housing is a challenge,” Paulison said. “But this is a doable task and we are confident that as we work together we will improve the quality of life for thousands of evacuees.”

When evacuees find rental housing FEMA’s benefits will continue. They plan to provide rental assistance for up to 18 months. They estimate tens of thousands of hurricane victims will receive comfortable housing at no cost to them and without reducing eligibility for other FEMA assistance.

FEMA has provided $500 million to hurricane evacuees in the last two weeks and has provided more than $4.4 billion to 1.4 million families affected by the summer and fall hurricanes, to date.

Evacuees in need of help may contact FEMA’s housing locator service at 1-800-762-8740 or 1-800-462-7585. The number is in operation daily from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

For other forms of assistance, evacuees may contact FEMA’s help line at 1-800-621-FEMA or 1-800-462-7585 or a nearby Disaster Recovery Center to learn more about alternative housing options and referral services.