FEMA Extends Hotel Deadline for Katrina Survivors
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
People who evacuated the Gulf Coast because of the hurricanes will have a couple more weeks at least in hotels on the government's dime. Under intense pressure, the Federal Emergency Management Agency backed away from its December 1st deadline. NPR's Pam Fessler reports the checkout date is now December 15th or even later.
PAM FESSLER reporting:
FEMA caused an uproar last week when it told evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita that the agency would stop paying for hotel rooms after the 1st of the month. But with some 50,000 families still housed in hotels and motels across the country, local officials and housing advocates said it would be impossible to move so many people so quickly. Today acting FEMA Director David Paulison announced that the agency would extend the deadline until December 15th for all evacuees and allow an additional extension in the hardest-hit areas.
Mr. DAVID PAULISON (Acting Director, FEMA): Ten states are housing most of the evacuees, and we know that they're going to have a difficult time even meeting that December 15th deadline. So we're going to extend that deadline for them to January 7th.
FESSLER: Provided the states submit a plan on how they intend to get all their evacuees into apartments, trailers or other housing. The 10 states are Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, California and Nevada. Paulison said FEMA wants evacuees out of hotels and into more permanent housing not only because it's a lot cheaper for the government, but it provides more stable living conditions for evacuees.
Mr. PAULISON: Let me make this really clear. We are not kicking people out into the streets. We are simply moving them from hotels and motels into apartments that we will continue to pay for.
FESSLER: He said the agency will work with evacuees and local officials to identify alternative housing. FEMA's decision was welcomed by Houston Mayor Bill White, one of the most outspoken critics of the December 1st deadline. White said he was pleased with FEMA's quick response. His city has some 19,000 evacuees still living in hotels. Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.