Hurricane Katrina victims using hotel vouchers
must call by Monday for extension
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News
January 27, 2006, 9:00 p.m.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned today that evacuees
from hurricanes Katrina and Rita have until Monday to call FEMA
and get an individual authorization code that will extend FEMA
funding for hotel accommodations beyond the night of Feb. 6.
This is the final extension in the FEMA accommodation subsidy
program, according to the agency's media office.
All evacuees staying in hotels or motels paid for by the agency
are eligible for the extension of accommodation payments, according
The authorization code is also required for evacuees who are
changing motels or hotels or who are checking into a hotel or
motel for the first time.
Once evacuees have received a valid authorization code, the agency
will pay for their accommodations from Feb. 7 through March 1,
or for two weeks after FEMA has decided whether an evacuee is
eligible for further funding, whichever date is later, according
to the agency.
Regardless of FEMA's ultimate assessment of the evacuees' applications
for further funding, all applicants will receive accommodation
support for two weeks after FEMA advises them of the outcome of
Some five months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf
Coast and some four months since Hurricane Rita lashed the Gulf
Coast and Florida Keys, Bay Area hotels and motels are still home
to a number of hurricane evacuees, said Woody Baker-Cohn, a spokesman
for the American Red Cross' Bay Area chapter.
Baker-Cohn said as of Thursday the Red Cross was aware of 55
people living in San Francisco motels and hotels and 176 people
in Alameda and Contra Costa counties combined.
There were probably no longer any evacuees living in Marin, Solano
and San Mateo counties, Baker-Cohn said, although he added he
was not able to confirm those estimates.
A spokeswoman for the Sonoma County chapter of the Red Cross
said there were no evacuees in the county. Spokeswomen for the
Santa Clara Valley and Monterey-San Benito counties chapters said
they believed there were no longer evacuees in those regions.
Most of the evacuees who moved out to the Bay Area "had
some sort of family connection," Baker-Cohn said. Others,
he said, moved here because of something as simple as a film or
a commercial, such as the well-known Rice-a-Roni advertisement,
had given them a positive impression of San Francisco.
But financial concerns, including the uncertainty of how long
FEMA would provide funding for accommodations, have proven pressing
and stressful for many evacuees, Baker-Cohn said.
The cost and difficulty of finding permanent housing in San Francisco
forced many hurricane victims who had initially arrived in San
Francisco to leave for other Bay Area cities, Baker-Cohn said.
He said evacuees are still living in Alameda County in particular.
Hurricane evacuees can obtain an authorization code from FEMA
by calling FEMA's 24-hour help line at (800) 621-FEMA. The TTY
number for the help line is (800) 462-7585.
Evacuees should note that the FEMA call center providing authorization
codes will close at 10 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Monday, according
to FEMA spokeswoman Allison Hadley.
Evacuees needing housing assistance can also receive help by
calling FEMA's Housing Locator Service at (800) 762-8740, which
is open daily from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST; HUD Programs general
inquiries at (800) 955-2232; and HUD Disaster Housing Assistance
at (866) 373-9509. The HUD TTY number is (800) 877-8339.
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