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Newsom slams Bush decision
to cut off hotel vouchers for Katrina
victims at beginning of holidays

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

Bush delays end to Katrina hotel vouchers beyond the holidays


November 22, 2005, 4:30 p.m.

The Bush Administration this afternoon announced it will not end hotel voucher subsidies for Katrina survivors on December 1 as previously announced.

Stung by criticism it was pushing disaster survivors onto the streets as holidays began, the administration today moved eviction date to July 7.


November 17, 2005

Mayor Newsom yesterday urged President Bush to reconsider Bush decision to end federal subsidy of hotel rooms for Hurricane Katrina victims at the end of this month.

Newsom said he is dumbfounded by Bush policy being announced with just two weeks notice and at the beginning of the holidays.

"I frankly am dumbfounded by a press release that we received late yesterday from FEMA saying that they are no longer going to pay for hotel vouchers for evacuees in the United States," Newsom stated.

"That memo went out stating that by the end of this month - the beginning of the holiday season - that all of those who are in hotels would no longer be afforded reimbursement from FEMA.

"This is in stark contrast to everything that the president had said post-Katrina and everything he had been saying in terms of the value we place on taking care of those evacuated and those who were displaced from the hurricane.

"I am frankly dumbfounded that we have just two weeks. We have in San Francisco…roughly 240 individuals that have worked through the Mayor's Department of Housing as well as the Housing Authority.

"This is not an exclusive number of other evacuees who may be in San Francisco, but that represents 85 families.

"They are now being told to get out of their hotel rooms within the next two weeks at the beginning of the holiday season.

"It's beyond me the pale of the imagination that they can be serious about this.

"Accordingly we have worked to find permanent housing for these evacuees…which I will argue we will do on moral grounds but frankly we should not have to do on principle."

Text of Newsom letter to Bush follows:

November 16, 2005

President Bush
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush,

Last fall, cities and states across the country heeded your call to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In San Francisco, we responded swiftly and welcomed several hundred evacuees to our city.

Since then, our faith based community; our city government family and our charitable organizations have labored tirelessly to aid the victims of that natural disaster. We are doing our part.

According to news reports today, your administration appears unwilling to do its part. We are dismayed that FEMA plans to stop paying for evacuee's hotels on November 30th. Furthermore, we are shocked that you have chosen to do so at the beginning of the holiday season.

Frankly, this decision is completely inconsistent with the appeals you made in numerous public appearances.

We recognize that temporary housing is not the solution for our citizens victimized by Hurricane Katrina. The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing is working with at least 85 families to help them find permanent shelter. In many cases this process will not be completed by the arbitrary cut off date your administration has chosen.

Mr. President, on September 3rd, 2003 you said: "The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."

I urge you to reconsider this ill-conceived and insensitive decision immediately. The thoughtful and compassionate action is to ensure that we help all the families find permanent and long term housing.


Gavin Newsom, Mayor




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