Past Updates

From FEMA Answers


July 2006

FEMA issued a new ruling on July 26th, that all eligible evacuees who began in the FEMA Apartments or "403" housing program and transitioned to the 408 Program will now only need to recertify one time. See the Recertification page for more details.

In apparent recognition of the huge number of evacuees not receiving FEMA assistance, FEMA issued a press release on July 25, urging evacuees to recertify. The release notes that nation-wide only 10% of 30,000 households needing to recertify July 31 have done so.

FEMA published a Recovery Strategy document entitled "Mass Sheltering and Housing Assistance" on July 24, 2006. This Strategy applies to emergencies or major disasters declared on or after July 24, 2006. It outlines protocols for transitional sheltering and temporary housing, and strategies for evacuation, relocation, evacuee return, etc.

On July 21, Plaintiffs in Watson v. FEMA filed a motion, requesting that the Court order FEMA to give reasons why it has failed to comply with Judge Hittner's Order to pay utilities. On the same day, FEMA also a motion to stay the order. The judge denied FEMA's request for a stay on July 27.

On July 13, Judge Hittner issued a Preliminary Injunction against FEMA, ordering the agency to pay evacuees utilities, up to the full amount of HUD's fair market rent.

June 2006

On June 20, a hearing was held in the Watson v. FEMA case, challenging FEMA's policy to not pay utility costs in the Section 408 temporary housing assistance program. The matter was taken under submission by Judge Hittner.

On June 16, Judge Duval issued a 44 page decision in McWaters v. FEMA. The decision affirms earlier rulings made by the Court, but does not order FEMA to take any additional steps at this time. The Court is critical of FEMA's failure to make adquate information available about what assistance the agency provides, and states that it may revisit FEMA's practices if raised by plaintiffs in the suit.

FEMA announced on June 15 that funding for the FEMA Apartments program will be extended for Houston only from June 30th to July 31st, according to the Joint Hurricane Housing Task Force website.

May 2006

  • On May 30, Judge Hittner declined to grant a temporary restraining order to extend FEMA's Section 403 (apartment) program until trial in Watson v. FEMA, now set for June 20, but does order FEMA to expedite any extension requests made by local jurisdictions. The Court's order notes that FEMA granted requests for extensions to each of 11 cities that requested one. Local jurisdictions should now request from FEMA an extension of the Section 403 for June in order to protect evacuees.
  • Advocates assisting FEMA applicants have encountered some FEMA staff who refuse to speak to them. FEMA denies this practice but agrees to investigate any allegations. See FEMA & Advocacy for more information.
  • On May 8, the City of Houston issued guidance to evacuees in FEMA Apartments. This guidance is simple and helpful, but note that some information is applicable only to Houston.
  • On May 25, FEMA revealed in court documents that extensions have been granted to the May 31 deadline to end assistance through the Section 403 program in 11 cities. See FEMA Litigation for more details.
  • A hearing on the Watson v. FEMA case was held May 25, and further argument was held May 26. Judge Hittner has not yet issued a decision, but indicated a ruling is likely by Tuesday May 30.
  • On May 19, a new class action law suit was filed against FEMA. See FEMA Litigation on this page for information on Watson v. FEMA, and the FEMA Apartments page for more information on the housing assistance program.

April 2006

  • The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee acted on April 4 to pass a supplemental bill that would make significant new money available for the recovery effort. The entire Senate is expected to consider the bill the week of April 24.
  • From April 7 to April 12, FEMA sent letters updating the situation for families living in FEMA Apartments on their right to remain in the apartments. These letters were sent to eligible evacuees and ineligible evacuees.
  • By letter dated April 26, FEMA extended the deadline to terminate certain kinds of FEMA Apartments assistance for in Houston from May 31 until June 30. This extension applies to Houston only.
  • On April 26, FEMA issued further guidance through a press release entitled "Recertification, What Does It All Mean?" This document provides advice about responsibilities of recipients of FEMA assistance and the practical steps in the recertification process.

March 2006

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance Benefit Period Extended to June. here The Alabama Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have announced that benefits in the form of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will be available through June 3, 2006. This 13-week extension is available to those who have already filed for disaster unemployment assistance with the state.
  • FEMA issued disaster specific guidance on March 26, 2006 regarding evacuees living in apartments subsidized by FEMA who must now transition to Section 408 assistance. This guidance extends FEMA apartment assistance until May 31, 2006, and corrects letters sent to evacuees in early March stating that the apartment program would end as of March 31. FEMA also issued a March 27 letter to cities and states administering the program to explain the transition. See the FEMA Apartments page for more guidance.
  • Further guidance on recertification through an official FEMA memo on the subject was recently released. Dated February 22, this memo describes standards for first, second and third recertification. Also form letters to evacuees provide further guidance, these are similar to the individual letters posted below. Posted March 16. Update March 21: FEMA also issued an internal memo directing that rents paid to Lousiana evacuees be raised 20% above HUD's fair market rent (FMR).
  • New FEMA guidance on documentation needed to obtain continuing rental assistance appeared in a recent letter to evacuee awarding assistance. Also in a denial letter to an evacuee, FEMA gives 30 days notice to a landlord that assistance will be terminated. Posted on March 9.
  • FEMA has contracted with Corporate Lodging Consultants (CLC) to manage apartment leases entered by state and local governments. CLC has issued useful guidance on its program. Additional information is available from a FEMA annoncement and the CLC web site. Posted March 13.
  • On March 3, HUD published a notice to increase the Fair Market Rents (FMRs) in New Orleans by 35% from $696 to $940 for a two-bedroom and in Baton Rouge by 25% from $576 to $720. (Note: in February HUD reduced the Baton Rouge FMR from $619 to $576 for an unrelated reason).

February 2006

  • The National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) has added an overview of FEMA/HUD housing assistance programs for the Gulf Coast hurricane victims in the Rental Housing section of this site.
  • A new Recertification page was added to this site February 24, which includes FEMA Forms to help evacuees make applications.
  • On February 23, FEMA announced a further extension of the hotel program in Louisiana and Mississippi to March 15. The announcement notes 60,000 families are in apartments subsidized by state and local governments. However, FEMA also issued a February 22 memo stating that rents will not be reimbursed for many of these apartments after February 28.
  • On February 17, a new law suit was filed against FEMA, see the FEMA Litigation section.
  • On February 15, FEMA staff answered questions for housing advocates. Some raw notes on the February 15 conference call are posted here.
  • On February 11, FEMA issued a press release describing a transition to long term housing, however, the announcement continues to be silent about what housing assistance FEMA will make available. The notice states that 12,000 households will lose FEMA hotel housing assistance as of February 13. So far, FEMA has only provided three months of housing assistance since Katrina, see FEMA_Answers, and has yet to announce what further FEMA housing assistance will be available.
  • As late as February 5, some evacuees were obtaining authorization codes to remain in FEMA hotel rooms, despite a January 30 deadline. Evacuees in FEMA hotels who have not yet requested FEMA authorization may yet be able to get approval.
  • FEMA Appeal Forms. Hurricane survivors who are improperly denied FEMA benefits should file an appeal with FEMA. Forms to make these appeals to FEMA were posted on February 2 to a Yahoo Group on Katrina rehousing. You must join the group to access the files; they are posted here.

January 2006

  • A January 30 deadline required evacuees living in hotels to apply for further hotel assistance from FEMA. Image:FEMA letter to Evacuees Jan13.pdf sent to evacuees from FEMA provides further details. A January 27 fact sheet from FEMA reviews the deadlines and FEMA's policies.
  • On January 20, NLIHC established an e-mail discussion group for advocates assisting hurricane survivors obtain temporary and long term housing. Katrina Rehousing
  • On January 10, FEMA issued further guidance for evacuees living in FEMA subsidized hotels. The announcments states that all evacuees must contact FEMA by January 30 to get an "authorization code" to extend thier hotel stay beyond February 6, and hotel assistance will otherwise be terminated after that date.
  • On January 10, FEMA announced that the deadline to apply for KDHAP housing assistance was extended to March 11, 2006.
  • A detailed review of federal legislation enacted in response to the disaster, by CBPP, was posted to this site on January 4.
  • On January 2, 2006, FEMA extended the deadline to end the hotel program, past January 7, until further notice. FEMA has not yet individually notified evacuees of the termination of their participation in the hotel program, as required by the class action lawsuit McWaters v. FEMA. It appears that FEMA has not yet identified those residing in the hotels. [1]

December 2005

  • On December 16, FEMA announced that no SBA loan application need be completed to receive temporary housing assistance. This complies with the order in McWaters v. FEMA, however, all distaster survivors need to be informed about this change in policy, as many were already turned down or told such application was necessary.
  • On December 14, FEMA posted a message on the home page of its web site, stating that it will comply with the court order in McWaters v. FEMA and extend the hotel motel program for all evacuees through January 7, 2006. FEMA also states that "The federally-reimbursed hotel/motel program will end no earlier than February 7, 2006."
  • On December 14 the House Financial Services Committee's Housing Subcommittee heard testimony from a HUD representative on "Housing Options in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita." The hearing webcast, began at 2:00 p.m. eastern. Testimony before the subcommittee on December 8 by David Garratt, the Acting Director of FEMA's Recovery Division, is available online. A summary of the very lively discussion is in the National Low Income Housing Coalition's newsletter.
  • The New York Times published 3 articles on disaster survivors, including the McWaters v. FEMA lawsuit, on December 13.
  • On December 12, Judge Duval of the U.S. District Court, issued an order in the McWaters v. FEMA case requiring FEMA to extend the hotel/motel program until at least January 7, 2006. In addition, the court ordered FEMA to give every evacuee currently in short term lodging at least two weeks notice prior to terminating their assistance in the hotel/motel program. The order also stops FEMA from requiring completion of an SBA loan application before Temporary Housing Assistance is given.
  • On December 12 FEMA announced it will extend hotel assistance to Alabama through January 7, the status of other states is not immediately clear from this announcement. This conflicts with December 10, news reports stating that FEMA will extended the hotel/motel program until January 7 for all states, rather than hold evacuees in some states to a December 15 deadline as previously announced. FEMA made other announcements regarding this program in Federal Court on December 9, see FEMA Litigation.
  • On December 9, FEMA announced that residents in 17 New Orleans Parish zip codes can return home to inspect damage.
  • On December 9, the U.S. District Court in New Orleans held a hearing for a Temporary Restraining Order against FEMA to order that the agency continue providing transitional assistance to those currently residing in hotels around the country. See FEMA Litigation
  • On December 2, FEMA announced that housing assistance will be made available to parts of five Lousiana parishes without a physical inspection, based on satellite images.
  • On December 1, HUD issued a formal notice on the KDHAP program, PIH Notice 2005-36. This notice confirms that KDHAP assistance for those formerly homeless or assisted through special needs programs (supportive housing, Shelter Plus Care, HOPWA), will be assisted through Continuum of Care providers.

November 2005

  • On November 30, Texas housing advocates released a study on an impending crisis for the long term housing needs of 150,000 evacuess now living in Texas. The full report is available here.
  • As late as November 29, at least one hotel was planning to evict all hurricane survivors by FEMA's December 1 deadline. [2] The exentension to December 15 allows two more weeks to find longer term housing.
  • On November 28, lawyers representing disaster survivors moved in federal court for a temporary restraining order to stop FEMA from evicting survivors from hotels December 15. The papers filed in court detail the request.
  • In a November 26 news release, FEMA admits that some families have not received aid, although they were eligible for the assistance, because of the so called "shared housing" rule. It is unclear how FEMA will implement this reverse in policy.
  • On November 22, FEMA announced a two-week extension of the deadline for termination of FEMA’s hotel program for evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Upon application by the Governor, FEMA will further extend the termination deadline for the 10 states with the highest concentration of evacuees through Jan. 7, 2006.
    • Brief Analysis. Problems remain for new constraints on the ability of states and localities to enter into leases on behalf of evacuees, and lack of clarity on whether families will continue to receive FEMA rental assistance after the first 3 months. There is no extension on hotel payments beyond Jan. 7 for anyone, including in MS and LA. Nor did FEMA announce any change in the March 1 termination date for reimbursements to cities and states for rental payments for apartments they lease on behalf of displaced families.
  • On November 22, the PBS program Frontline covered Hurricane Katrina in a one hour documentary called The Storm. The program will be made available on-line, and the web site contains further information about actions by FEMA on the recovery.
  • On November 22nd, members of ACORN Katrina Survivors Association held a rally in Houston to demand that FEMA and the Bush administration rescind the December 1st deadline to close the hotel/motel program. [3]
  • On November 19, FEMA announced that there is an upcoming November 30 deadline to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The announcement appears to relate only to Louisiana, since it refers all applicants to
  • On November 18, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reports further details from FEMA regarding closure of the hotel/motel program. NLIHC reports that for those in Louisiana and Mississippi, FEMA officials on the ground will have the authority to extend the hotel program in two-week increments until January 7. [4]
  • On November 17, the Equal Justice Society announced a petition to FEMA for "bold action" to respond to the disaster. The 14-point demands call on President Bush to restore funding to federal agencies responsible for administering relief programs. The petition also asks whether the race of the predominantly black victims was a major factor in the government's sluggish response to the widespread and unprecedented suffering.
  • On November 18, lawyers in the class action law suit against FEMA moved for a temporary restraining order in the New Orleans federal court.
  • The Associated Press reports on November 15 that FEMA will end the hotel/motel program effective December 1. An exception is granted for evacuees in Louisiana and Mississippi, who have until Jan. 7 to find homes, said David Garratt, FEMA's acting director of recovery. An estimated 53,000 families remain in hotels. [5]
  • According to a November 15 story of the Catholic News Service, Bishops negotiating with FEMA have been unable to get clear answers about FEMA's plans for rebuilding New Orleans.
  • On November 10, a class action law suit was filed against FEMA in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. The suit is brough on behalf of hurricane survivors who have not received adequate FEMA assistance. The complaint, McWaters v. FEMA, provides details of the challenge. An article on the suit appears in the November 10 New York Times.
  • On November 8, the Times Picayune reports a FEMA announcement that it may take 5 weeks to receive payments for the $26,200 in compensation. The paper also reports that evacuees who already received $4,358 will have that amount deducted from the total payment amount.
  • FEMA has suggested that the KDHAP program may be moved from Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to Continuum of Care providers. This shift could occur starting the week of October 31. NLIHC reports there will be seperate special needs program KDHAP-SN.
  • On November 3, FEMA reported to NLIHC that rather than give incremental assistance, it plans to write checks for up to the statutorily allowable amount of $26,200 per household for approximately 60,000 households whose homes FEMA has determined can be declared destroyed without need for inspection. These reports were also covered in the Washington Post and The New York Times on November 5.
  • A November 3 report was issued by CBPP on bringing home Katrina's poorest victims. The report details how giving Katrina’s neediest victims a real option to come home will require targeted rental assistance able to cover the gap between increased post-hurricane rents and the incomes of the poorest households.

October 2005

  • On October 28, the White House sent two requests to the House of Representatives concerning funding for hurricane recovery. The first request is to reallocate $17.1 billion of the $62.3 billion already appropriated by Congress for FEMA Katrina disaster relief. The second request was to rescind unobligated, previously appropriated funds from 55 “lower-priority” federal programs for a total of $2.3 billion to be dedicated to Katrina relief. Report from NLIHC, where more details are available.
  • On October 28, FEMA announced all deadlines to apply for assistance were extended to January 11, 2006.
  • On October 26, HUD issued a notice of regulatory and administrative waivers for Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) programs to assist with relief in the Hurricane Rita disaster area. It is similar to the October 3 waiver notice pertaining to Hurricane Katrina. [6]
  • On October 22, the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance was extended by 60 days for Mississipi residents. See Other deadlines were extended by FEMA announcement on October 28, see above. The deadlines on Oct. 22 were:
    • Katrina victims in Louisiana and Mississipi: January 11, 2006
    • Katrina victims in Florida: October 28, 2005
    • Katrina victims in Alabama: October 29, 2005
    • Rita vicitms in Louisiana: January 11, 2006
    • All other Rita victims: November 23, 2005.[7]
  • On October 20, a national conference call was held on HUD and FEMA’s transitional housing assistance programs. A summary of that meeting is available from NLIHC here.
  • On October 20, HUD officials provided more information on the KDHAP housing program. See the KDHAP section of this site.
  • On October 17, FEMA provided long awaited answers to advocates and officials from across the country who submitted questions to NLIHC regarding the FEMA transitional housing program. The list of questions was provided to Jack Shuback, FEMA Individual Assistance Specialist, in advance of an October 7 conference call with with over 400 participants. The answers were compiled by FEMA Individual Assistance Program staff and posted by NLIHC.
  • A comprehensive fact sheet for hurricane victims who need help accessing assistance from federal agencies was revised October 17 and posted by the Enterprise Foundation.
  • On October 13, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report detailing the current situation for survivors, and making recommendations on changes needed in the transitional housing program. The report recommends expanded use of housing vouchers and is available through the CBPP web site.
  • HUD announces no downpayment mortgages for hurricane survivors. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced on 10/12/05, that HUD has a mortgage financing program that requires no downpayment for people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged due to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. In addition to requiring no downpayment, potential homeowners can live anywhere they choose in the United States. See HUD's web site for details.