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From FEMA Answers

FEMA Answers is dedicated to help the survivors of 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. 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 the four most 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 avaialable FEMA benefits. Advocacy materials are also located here.
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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.
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FEMA Litigation

See Main Article FEMA Litigation

Watson v. FEMA On May 19 a class action law suit was filed against FEMA regarding the FEMA Apartments program. Currently 60,000 households are living in dwelling units assisted by FEMA, but all of them face an uncertain future. This suit seeks to ensure that these families receive the proper housing assistance from FEMA. The class action complaint (note this is a large .pdf file) was filed in U.S. District Court in Houston. A press release by the lead firm Caddell & Chapman provides a brief overview.

On July 13, Judge Hittner issued a Preliminary Injunction against FEMA, ordering the agency to pay utilities, up to the full amount of HUD's fair market rent including utilities for all recipients of Temporary Housing Assistance under the Section 408 program. This order is a significant development for evacuess. Unfortunately, on September 6, 2006, the 5th Circuit court of appeals issued a decision that vacated the injunction issued by Judge Hittner. This decision relieved FEMA's obligation to pay utilities imposed by the Judge Hittner's order.

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.

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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.


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Recent Updates

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 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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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Relevant News Articles

News Archive

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Links and Other Assistance

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Links

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Other wiki sites

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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.


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