FEMA Sending More Katrina Relief Money to Houston

The City of Houston is getting another $26 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Katrina relief. At the same time as this announcement, newly confirmed FEMA director David Paulison was in town to meet with faith-based groups, non-profits and first responders. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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The city of Houston has been asking for more reimbursement for Katrina relief efforts everything from public safety to utility payments for Katrina evacuess. Houston Congresswoman Shiela Jackson-Lee says another $26 million is headed to Houston.

"They are providing an extension of payment of utilities until the 31st of July and then they are giving housing costs as well. And we are making an additional request to the secretary to continue our benefits until March 2007."

Katrina evacuee Linda Jeffers attended the meeting and made her own personal plea to the FEMA director to extend benefits. She says month to month benefits do not help stabilize Katrina evacuee families.

"Three months, six months anything but from month to month, you know, for utilities, housing... you know you get a job you can't go on a job without knowing when you go back home if your doors been locked and all your furniture's been thrown out, that's pretty traumatic."

FEMA director David Paulison heard from a number of local groups who stepped up during Hurricane Katrina to help evacuees. He heard about the problems encountered and ideas for improving the system. Paulison says FEMA traditionally houses three to five thousand people a year following natural disasters. He says the system couldn't handle the 900,000 FEMA housed after Hurricane Katrina. Paulison says FEMA now has better supplies.

"I have enough food to feed two million people for a week and we did the same thing with water we did the same with ice, with our tarps and all those types of things we have to give out."

After the meeting, Paulison praised local leaders for their efforts during the evaucation for Hurricane Rita. When asked about the region's revised plan, Paulison says it's just not up to local government's to be ready.

"It's also up to the individuals to make sure they get their vehicles ready and have themselves ready prior to an evacuation call. There is some personal responsibility here I'm going to make sure things are ready, the state has to make sure they're ready and the city's going to make sure they're ready but there's a fourth piece of it and that's personal responsibility."

That means having emergency supplies of food and water and an evacuation plan that allows plenty of time to get out of the city ahead of a strom. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels.

"We have a better coordinated plan than we ever had, we have a better plan in place in the state. It is unrealistic to thing that you're going to have a four hour drive to Austin or to Dallas, you know, with three million people leaving this region if that's what one chooses to do so. But we do have a better plan to provide for the people along the route."

Eckels says no one agency is responsible for the plan; instead it's about cooperation with local governments and the state. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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