WASHINGTON – Stung by charges it is pushing hurricane victims out before the holidays, FEMA extended its hotel housing program Tuesday by a month in 10 states that have received victims of Katrina and Rita.
Evacuees in those states — Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, California, Tennessee, Arkansas and Nevada — now have until Jan. 7 before the Federal Emergency Management Agency stops paying their hotel bills. The deadline is shorter — Dec. 15 — for victims in all other states, said FEMA acting director R. David Paulison.
Last week, FEMA set a Dec. 1 deadline to stop hotel payments everywhere but Louisiana and Mississippi. But that plan drew sharp criticism from Congress, city and state officials and housing advocates who feared 15 days would not be enough time for evacuees to find stable housing.
"We want these families to be back in some semblance of normalcy," Paulison told reporters. "We want them in decent housing. We want them out of these hotels and motels and into apartments." That movement will take place gradually, he said.
"Let me make this really clear: We are not kicking people out into the street," he said. "We are simply moving them from hotels and motels and into apartments that we will continue to pay for."