HOUSTON – Thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who have been staying in hotels at FEMA's expense will have to pay their own way beginning Tuesday unless they were able to arrange extensions from federal officials.
Hotel managers posted notices and slipped leaflets under evacuees' room doors informing them of the deadline.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow those who received extensions to stay through Feb. 13 or March 1, depending on their circumstances.
The agency authorized extensions for evacuees staying in more than 20,000 hotel rooms in more than 40 states. But about 5,000 evacuees nationwide did not contact the agency or were unable to get an extension.
"If they did not contact us or allow us to talk with them during our outreach efforts, we believe that they had a reason to do so," said the head of FEMA's transitional housing unit, Libby Turner.
FEMA said it has spent $529 million so far on putting evacuees up in hotels.
"Folks are trying to move on with their lives after a catastrophic disaster, and some are having more difficulty than others in doing that," Turner said.
Turner said FEMA is teaming up with health, social services and volunteer agencies to help victims find new homes or rebuild and get their lives back on track.
Marilyn Fountain, a spokeswoman for the Star of Hope, a Houston homeless shelter, said the shelter anticipates an influx of people needing a place to stay.