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FEMA Trailer Extension Formally Begins
Residents Have Until August 31 to Find New Homes

by Keith Burton - GCN    Filed 2/27/07

While thousands of families remain in FEMA trailers in front of their homes and at FEMA mobile home parks on the Coast, the clock is ticking for when these Hurricane Katrina survivors will have to find permanent housing.

In January, FEMA officials told Governor Haley Barbour that an extension to the housing deadline that was to expire at the end of February would be extended until August 31.

In December, as the deadline to move out of the FEMA trailers was approaching, Governor Barbour asked FEMA for a year-long extension of the temporary housing program. Then on January 19, after meeting with FEMA and other officials in Washington, Barbour announced prior to a formal announcement from FEMA, that the agency would extend the deadline. He said at the time in a news release that "the official announcement by the Department of Homeland Security is expected early next week."

But it wasn't the next week. As the February deadline now has come, GCN sought to make sure that FEMA had officially accepted the extension. GCN found that FEMA never issued a formal announcement or press release, according to FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany.

"We did not issue a news release, but we did share that information with the governor," Brezany told GCN.

Brezany told GCN that the official word on the extension was indicated in a separate news release February 9 on a related subject. But as the media seemed to have the information, a specific press release was not issued. The following is the text of the related FEMA news release.

FEMA Provides Payment of Housing Assistance Directly to Landlords

Released February 9, 2007

WASHINGTON , D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is expanding its program of paying assistance directly to landlords who are renting housing to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Providing payments directly to the landlords through the third party agent of Corporate Lodging Consultants (CLC), ensures prompt payments to the landlords, allows for better accountability by the federal government, and frees the applicant from having to make the payments themselves. Since early on in these disasters, FEMA has used CLC as an agent to make assistance payments for eligible applicants, and this process has proven very successful.

FEMA provides temporary housing assistance to victims of disasters under Section 408 of the Stafford Act. This includes assistance so that individuals and households who are disaster victims can lease existing housing units or receive mobile homes or travel trailers, located both in group-sites and on individually owned property.

The overall Temporary Housing Program for eligible applicants affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was set to expire in late February and March, and was recently extended to August 31, 2007. As part of the extension, beginning March 1, 2007, for Katrina-affected families and April 1, 2007, for Rita-affected families, FEMA will continue to make assistance payments directly to landlords through CLC.

In order for those applicants impacted to continue to receive this FEMA assistance without an interruption, the applicant's landlord must sign up for direct payments through CLC. Both FEMA and CLC are working closely with applicants and landlords who may be impacted to educate them and ensure a smooth transition of the new payment procedures.

Individuals and families in FEMA's direct housing program, those in mobile homes and travel trailers, as well as those whose assistance payments are already being handled for them will not be affected.

Landlords can learn more about how easy the process is by calling 1-866-362-0742 or by visiting the CLC website at www.corplodging.com/femadap.

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

Starting March 1st, the clock begins to run toward the August 31 deadline when people will have to be out of their trailers. While there are still over 28,000 FEMA trailers in use in Mississippi, and many more in Louisiana, it is clear at the end of February, that many of the people in the trailers may still need them at the end of August. FEMA officials say that an average of 250 trailers are turned in every week.

At this point in time though, it is unlikely that the the extension is to be repeated in August since the Governor's initial request for a full year was reduce to six months.

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