Thursday, October 18, 2007



RV Business
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eager to reduce housing aid to the more than 95,000 households still displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA announced a program yesterday offering up to $4,000 for relocation expenses for families or individuals who return home or find permanent housing elsewhere by the end of February.

According to a New York Times article, the offer is directed at the nearly 30,000 households receiving rental subsidies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the more than 65,000 living rent-free in FEMA trailers and the larger mobile home models.

The survivors are far-flung, with "Katrina/Rita households" listed by FEMA in every state except North Dakota. Texas had 13,632; Georgia, 880; Tennessee, 875; Arkansas, 800; and California, 160.

Applicants for the reimbursements need to be already registered and receiving disaster assistance for damaged housing in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas. They may not have already received more than the current total assistance cap of $26,200. And they may not have received any other relocation aid.

"It's a justification to get out of travel trailers, back into a more normal life to where they are self-sustaining," said Mary Margaret Walker, a spokeswoman for the agency in Washington.

As of Sept. 25, Walker said, 95,439 households were receiving housing aid from the 2005 storms, including 29,798 receiving rent subsidies and the remainder living in FEMA trailers and the larger mobile homes.

All had been moved out of hotels and motels, but 83 survivors with complaints about the air quality in the trailers are temporarily in hotels and motels, Walker said.

To obtain the relocation money, those in trailers and the other mobile homes would need to move into FEMA-financed or private housing anywhere in the continental United States.

Recipients of agency rent subsidies would have to move to nonsubsidized permanent housing at least 50 miles from their current locations.

People living anywhere now without agency aid would need to relocate to permanent housing in the storm-damaged state that they fled, but at least 50 miles away if they have already returned home.

Relocation costs eligible for reimbursement, the agency said, are air, bus or train fares, rental vehicles, furniture movers and gasoline, as well as lodging expenses if the move is more than 400 miles. Transportation costs for boats, recreational vehicles and other large luxury items are not covered, the agency said.

On Dec. 1, FEMA is to turn over its housing subsidies to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If the relocation payments are a carrot, the government also has a stick. Beginning in March, the Disaster Housing Assistance Program will reduce rental aid by $50 a month "with the goal of leading families closer to complete housing independence," meaning an eventual aid cutoff.

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