Katrina and Rita evacuees stuck in Houston hotels and motels will have until after the first of the year to find apartments after a December 1st FEMA deadline was extended yesterday.
The extension until January 7th came after an outcry from public officials and evacuess who begged FEMA to reconsider its decision to stop paying hotel and motel bills at the end of this month. Texas is one of ten states, including Lousisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where the new deadline applies. Evacuees in other states have until December 15th to move out of hotels and motels. FEMA’s Brad Crain says the agency listened. “We hoped that by December 1st that we would be able to find a lot more families and get them out of hotel, motel, temporary living, into much better accomodations such as apartments or homes. We found out that many of the areas affected, not only in Texas, but other states as well, simply didn’t have the housing needs so the best thing we could do is come up with longer term,” he says.
Houston Congressman Al Green was one of many lawmakers who called for the extension and says the new deadline allows evacuees more time to find new places to live. He says some evacuees may need even more time and that FEMA should be flexible. “I think that as we continue with this process, we are going to have to have a little bit of flexibility because this is unusual. We’ve never done anything like this before,” he says.
FEMA says the deadline simply means evacuees must find apartments, which the agency will continue to pay for until March 1st.