Main Page

From FEMA Answers

FEMA Answers is designed to help the survivors of the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita obtain adequate assistance from FEMA. The goal of this site is to provide information about FEMA programs and what benefits survivors should receive. As of 2007, much of this information is out of date since FEMA programs have changed over time. This site may also be used to organize information from other disasters. This type of site is called a wiki web site and depends on your participation. Please take time contribute to this site. The first step is to read the editing page of this web site.

This page includes Survivor Testimony, Housing Recovery, FEMA Litigation, News and Links & Assistance.
Here are some of the more popular pages of this site:
  • Recertification & Appeal. This page contains fill-in-the-blank form letters to fill out for recertification for FEMA rental assistance or to appeal a FEMA decision.
  • FEMA Answers. This page is to organize official statements from FEMA to answer critical questions about what assistance is available.
  • FEMA Policies. Find or contribute laws governing FEMA and other federal agencies involved in the response, such as HUD, USDA, RHS, etc. Proposed policy responses to the disaster are also located here.
  • Training and Advocacy Materials. Find or contribute flyers, training guides and presentations to train survivors, and those helping survivors, on available FEMA benefits. Advocacy materials are also located here.
  • Recoupment. Find or contribute flyers, training guides and presentations to train survivors, and those helping survivors, on the FEMA Recoupment process. Sample Letters, a Fill-In-The-Blank Form Letter, and other Advocacy materials are also located here.

Did You Know These FEMA Facts?

  • Most every evacuee households that received $2358 in rent for the first 3 months should get continuing rental assistance from FEMA for 18 months. You must request recertification to get this assistance.
  • The rents FEMA pays in Louisiana should be 20% higher than HUD published FMR. In New Orleans this means $1,128 per month for 2 bedroom, and in Baton Rouge it is $864 for a 2 bedroom.
  • FEMA has only been approving continuing rental assistance applications at a rate about 20%. If you are one of the 4 out of 5 households denied, you can file an appeal.

FEMA Litigation

See Main Article FEMA Litigation

RIDGELY v. FEMA On June 13, 2007, Judge Berrigan granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and ordered FEMA to stop terminating rental assistance, collecting overpayments, or resolving appeals until FEMA provides adequate advanced written notice setting forth the reason for the termination or alleged overpayment and further providing the recipient with the opportunity to have a hearing before any action is taken to terminate benefits or recover an alleged overpayment. In addition, the court ordered FEMA to provide notice to all individuals who have an appeal pending offering the individual the right to have their rental assistance reinstated until FEMA provides the notice and opportunity for a hearing. The Judge's decision and order set forth the reasoning and provide the details of what FEMA must do in compliance with the court's decision.

On April 19, 2007, the complaint for this case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Plaintiffs allege that FEMA operates an unresponsive system of administrative review and issues termination notices that are confusing and contain little more than undecipherable acronyms, and that FEMA has failed to publish standards setting forth the eligibility requirements. Also challenged in the suit are FEMA’s practices regarding recovery of alleged overpayments to aid recipients. The lawsuit alleges FEMA violates the Constitution by failing to provide aid recipients with clear notice of the reasons why it is seeking repayment of assistance and by terminating or withholding continued rental assistance before recipients are given an opportunity to dispute FEMA’s demands for repayment. Persons displaced by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita who have been denied continued rental assistance by FEMA may call a hotline established at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law to speak with local counsel about the lawsuit. The number is 504-861-5600.


ACORN v. FEMA On August 29, 2006, the complaint for this case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs allege that FEMA has terminated housing assistance benefits to hurricane survivors without adequate explanation of its decision in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act. For more information, including a press release and other Court documents, including briefs and exhibits, see the Public Citizen web site. Plaintiffs request for a Temporary Restraining Order was denied by the court. Plaintiffs have moved for a Preliminary Injunction.

On November 29, the Federal Court in D.C. issued an opinion in ACORN v. FEMA requiring restoration of Section 403 benefits to all evauees who, as of August 31, 2006, had been found ineligible for Section 408 benefits until such time as they have received detailed explanations why they were ineligible and are allowed appeals of those decisions. The Court's order provides additional details. FEMA filed an appeal of this decision on December 5. Pleadings from the case area available on the Public Citizen web site.


McWaters v. FEMA. A class action law suit was filed against FEMA in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of hurricane survivors who have not received adequate FEMA assistance. The complaint, McWaters v. FEMA, provides details of the challenge. The lead lawyers in the case are Schulte Roth & Zabel and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law.

On December 12, Judge Duval of the U.S. District Court, issued an order requiring FEMA to extend the hotel/motel program until February, 2006. Among other things, the order stops FEMA from requiring completion of an SBA loan application before Temporary Housing Assistance is given. On January 12, 2006, Judge Duval issued a modified order regarding closure of the hotel/motel program. This order extended the deadline so that the earliest evacuees can be terminated from the hotel program was February 13.

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.


Brou v. FEMA. Filed on February 17, 2006, this suit challenges FEMA's failure to provide temporary housing that is accessible for people with disabilities. Housing provided by FEMA has often come in the form of inaccessible trailers which lack wheelchair ramps, grab bars in the bathroom, wheelchair maneuvering room, and generally cannot be used by persons with disabilities. The case was related to the McWaters matter (see above). More information is in a press release and the complaint.

The case was settled by order entered on September 26. The settlement is summarized in a press release issued the same day. Complete details are available in the complete settlement agreement.

Housing Recovery

For information regarding how recovery efforts to rebuild housing in the affected area, the Housing Recovery page is the place to organize those concerns.


Recent Updates

On September 5, 2008, FEMA stopped recoupment of disaster assistance from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA has cancelled all notices sent before September 2008 that claimed people must repay the assistance. Affected individuals may not get notice of this directly from FEMA. See the Recoupment page for more information.

June 13, 2007: In the case of Ridgely v. FEMA, Judge Berrigan granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and ordered FEMA to stop terminating rental assistance, collecting overpayments, or resolving appeals until FEMA provides adequate advanced written notice setting forth the reason for the termination or alleged overpayment and further providing the recipient with the opportunity to have a hearing before any action is taken to terminate benefits or recover an alleged overpayment. In addition, the court ordered FEMA to provide notice to all individuals who have an appeal pending offering the individual the right to have their rental assistance reinstated until FEMA provides the notice and opportunity for a hearing. The full decision and order are available by clicking on the links.

April 20, 2007: FEMA has sent a letter to recipients of section 408 assistance requiring them to sign and complete a Declaration of Continuing Need for Temporary Housing and submit verifiable rental receipts in order to continue to receive assistance beyond May 31, 2007.

April 19, 2007: A complaint was filed against FEMA in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. See the FEMA Litigation page for more details.


February 20, 2007: FEMA's shared household policy is being used to deny eligible individuals and to improperly recoup benefits provided in the past. See the Recoupment page for more details.

On Friday, January 19, 2007, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced that President Bush had agreed to a six-month extension of housing assistance for households displaced by Hurricane Katrina and still receiving housing aid.

On November 29, the Federal Court in D.C. issued an opinion in ACORN v. FEMA requiring restoration of Section 403 benefits to all evauees who, as of August 31, 2006, had been found ineligible for Section 408 benefits until such time as they have received detailed explanations why they were ineligible and are allowed appeals of those decisions. The Court's order provides additional details. FEMA filed an appeal of this decision on December 5. For more details, see the Public Citizen web site.

On October 11, FEMA issued a new Recertification Form meant to streamline the recertification process.

The Joint Hurricane Housing Task Force and the City of Houston have created a recertification video to explain how to recertify, made available about September 22. Simplified written instructions on recertification were also produced in Houston.

On September 15, a hearing was held on a preliminary injunction in the ACORN v. FEMA law suit.

On September 13, FEMA issued a press release modifying its policies for future disasters on fair market rents.

On August 29, the one year annivesary of the storm, ACORN filed a law suit against FEMA for failing to state reasons for terminating housing benefits. See FEMA Litigation for details.

On August 2, FEMA issued new Disaster Specific Guidance on providing utility payments in the Section 403 program. FEMA also issued frequently asked questions on this issue.

FEMA issued new Disaster Specific Guidance dated June 19 regarding displaced renter eligibility determinations. This notice makes evacuees eligible for rental assistance even if their pre-disaster home is habitable, but rather is “no longer available” to them, among other things. FEMA also prepared a form check list that evacuees must complete and submit to FEMA along with a letter to evacuees providing background.

In early June, a guide titled FEMA Trailer Evictions: A Guide for Families Threatened with Eviction was made available by public interest laywers for advising evacuees.

Past Updates

Survivor Testimony

Advocates organizing a better FEMA response need information from those working directly with survivors. This information is needed to make sure the right questions are posed to FEMA, and to make sure that elected representatives get an accurate picture of what is occurring. Note that general requests for help have been directed to web sites such as Katrinavictims.org.

  • Congress continues to investigate the response to the disasters in the Gulf Coast. Write down your concerns for presentation to Congress at katrinaresponse@nlihc.org.
  • Please submit experiences of problems with federal agencies and assistance to Katrina@nlchp.org.
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is seeking your help in identifying gaps in the housing assistance coverage currently being provided by FEMA and HUD to Hurricane Katrina victims. Please respond to the CBPP Survey on Gaps in Assistance.

Also there is a FEMA Questions page here for survivors who want to pose questions regarding FEMA assistance.

Relevant News Articles

News Archive

Links and Other Assistance

Links

KIN_banner_2.jpg

Other wiki sites

Other Assistance

Organizations offering resources such as housing, transportation, or other assistance (not directly from FEMA) may post to the Other Assistance page.

  • UnitedWayCrisisRecovery.org - For Katrina evacuees living in metropolitan Chicago. Filling out the crisis recovery form will help connect you with a case worker, to receive continuing services.
  • Jim Bennett at the Heartland Alliance in Chicago is putting together a set of resources for Katrina and Rita survivors in Chicago. Chicago Resources
  • Hurricanehousing.org Thousands of people throughout the region and the country are stepping up to offer free shelter to those in need. Note there is also a Hurricanehousing.net, sponsored by Louisiana realtors.


Editing Guides
Views
Personal tools
Navigation
Toolbox