FEMA Ends Hotel Lodging

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 75 percent of Katrina Evacuees who are still in hotel rooms have called for new authorization numbers as they were asked to do. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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It marks the end of FEMA's short-term lodging program following Hurricane Katrina. FEMA had asked those living in hotel rooms to get a new authorization number. FEMA says they are working with those who remain in order to get them into longer term housing such as apartments. FEMA Acting Director David Paulison says those with the new code will continue to have paid for hotel rooms until February 13th at least.

"Those that requested codes are quite frankly are those people who still want to work with us to make sure we can get them rental assistance and get them into decent housing. There are also some out there who may have been fraudently abusing the system and we will turn those people over to the inspector general. It also gets rid of any inadvertant misuse of this particular program."

Paulison says 75 percent of Katrina Evacuees in hotel rooms have called for new authorization codes. He says FEMA has called many who haven't. They've told FEMA that they have other housing lined up. The hotel bills paid by FEMA have totaled more than $520 million. At the peak, 85,000 hotel rooms were paid by FEMA.

"We're going to continue to work with federal state and local partners to help people find a more cost effective and comfortable more long-term housing. And as we end this short-term housing program we are going to continue to assist people with long-term needs. We are going to be there for the duration."

The rental assistance goes to Katrina Evacuees who rented or owned homes prior to the hurricane. FEMA reports that Katrina evacuees in the rental assistance program have received an initial payment of about $2,300 per household intended to cover rent payments for three months.

Paulison says those who were homeless before the hurricane will be referred to another program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has it's own Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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