FEMA officials say about 1,000 evacuees living in hotel rooms have called for the new authorization number in the last 24 hours. But officials estimate that as many as nine-thousand are living in hotels with about 6,800 of those in the Houston area. FEMA's Sandy Coachman says the hotel authorization is different from any previous authorization numbers a FEMA evacuee may have received.
"Some evacuees may think they already have a FEMA number, so they don't need another one. But the authorization code is a unique number different from the FEMA ID number and applicant received when they initially called FEMA. This new authorization code is linked to the hotel where the evacuee is staying."
Coachman says the goal is to make sure eligible evacuees receive rental assistance as soon as possible. Evacuees are being told to call 1-800-621-FEMA. If an evacuee does not get a new authorization number by January 30th, FEMA will stop paying for the hotel room on February 7th.
On another matter, FEMA officials say they are continuing to review Houston's apartment vouchers. The city issued 12-month apartment leases, but FEMA then said the vouchers would be honored for six months with the deadline being March first. FEMA is trying to transition those evacuees to a different assistance program which they apply for by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. The city has pressed FEMA to honor the original leases. In today's conference call, officials would only say that they are aggressively reviewing the program and that no decision has been made.