FEMA Could Foot Evacuee Housing Bill Into 2007

Although Katrina and Rita victims staying in hotels and motels across Texas have to find other housing by December 1st, the government will still be footing their housing bills for another year or more in some cases.

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FEMA is still spending about $1.3 million a night on hotels and motels for evacuees, a number that will drop by two-thirds when they move into apartments December 1st. Most evacuees will have their rent paid by FEMA through at least March 1st of next year, but many are also eligible for what's known as the Individual Assistance Program, which would pay their rent through March of 2007. FEMA's Don Jacks the program gives evacuees options. "Under that Individual Assistance Program if someone has lost their home, if they have no place to go, they can qualify for up to 18 months of rental assistance. Now, that 18 months starts on the day the President signs the federal declaration for that particular disaster," he says.

In this case, the President signed the declaration August 29th. Jacks says FEMA will be able to match evacuees zip codes with areas that have been totally destroyed. "If they are in one of the zip codes that showed-up under the mapping as homes totally destroyed, they quality for the 18 months of rental assistance. All they need to do right now is to go back to FEMA, 1-800-621-3362, follow the prompts to speak to one of the help-line operators," he says.

The assistance only pays for rent, not utilities or other living expenses, something Jacks hopes will encourage evacuees to begin to move forward in their lives and find more permanent jobs and housing.

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