AUSTIN, Texas -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working with the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) and rental housing owners to reach Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina evacuees who have not recertified for continued rental assistance.
Thousands of evacuees may be in danger of losing their rental assistance just because they have failed to return the necessary documentation to keep their eligibility. Every three months, those receiving rental assistance from FEMA must complete certain forms, including a statement of continuing need, a housing plan and receipts showing they have used their FEMA rental assistance for rent.
Only a small number of registrants are completing the paperwork, risking loss of benefits and trouble with property owners. At FEMA's request, TAA has encouraged property owners across Texas-and particularly those in larger metropolitan areas where more evacuees are living-to help spread the word to evacuees.
Along with rent receipts, FEMA asks applicants to provide long-term housing plans. This is a simple statement describing the steps households are taking to be in permanent housing paid for through their own resources after rental help ends, up to 18 months after the date of the presidential declaration (Sept. 24, 2005, for Rita and Aug. 29, 2005, for Hurricane Katrina).
Under FEMA's paperwork requirements, rent receipts must be legible, include dates covered by the rent, include the name of the person or agency to whom the rent was paid, and have the landlord's signature, the amount paid, the address of the rental unit and the landlord's name, address and telephone number. Although many properties don't typically provide receipts to residents, TAA has encouraged its members to provide the required information to assist evacuees in recertification efforts.
Applicants who are declared ineligible for continued assistance from FEMA may be able to get help from other agencies, either public or private.
Evacuees may dial a state referral number, 2-1-1, to be connected with long-term recovery committees that have been established in more than 20 Texas communities to help hurricane survivors. Callers need to identify themselves as evacuees to receive appropriate referrals.
FEMA's helpline, 1-800-621-FEMA (621-3362) (TTY 800-462-7585) is available for those with questions about FEMA processes and to update files with address changes or other information. The line is available from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Calling after working hours may result in faster service.
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.