AUSTIN, Texas -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will end its emergency sheltering and interim housing program for most recipients on Thursday, Aug. 31, recapping a successful year of providing rental assistance in two major forms for more than a hundred thousand evacuee households from the 2005 hurricanes.
Currently, about 107,000 households are in FEMA's individual assistance rental program and thousands of others have been converted to the program from the interim housing programs operated by public housing agencies with program funding from FEMA.
In March, there were approximately 20,000 households who appeared to be ineligible for conversion to the individual program established under Section 408 of the Stafford Act. The act is a federal law under which FEMA is authorized to provide rental assistance for up to 18 months following a presidential disaster declaration.
FEMA is pleased to report that when the Public Assistance housing program ends for most on Thursday, less than 3,000 households statewide will have been unable to prove to FEMA that they are eligible for FEMA's programs.
Rental assistance under Section 408 requires FEMA to document that the disaster victims are head of household, can prove occupancy in a disaster-stricken residence and had damage not covered by insurance. Disaster survivors must also sign statements declaring their need for assistance.
Since March, FEMA has been reviewing files of evacuee households who went from hotels into apartments. These cases have been reviewed multiple times to make sure that all evacuees have ample opportunity to prove that they can legally qualify for FEMA's longer-term rental assistance program.
There have been many instances where FEMA lacked only a small amount of documentation to prove eligibility, but FEMA has been unable to contact the applicants or they have not responded
with the necessary paperwork. FEMA has found many instances where applicants have moved ahead with their own recovery without notifying either their landlords or FEMA. In all but the small number of cases mentioned above, issues such as these have been resolved.
Amendments to federal law require FEMA to pay for utilities of those in public programs for 12 months following lease signing. Evacuees from those programs converted to the individual assistance program will continue to have their utilities paid until their lease runs out, as long as they stay in the same location.
Applicants who do not know their status may call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (621-3362) (TTY 800-462-7585). Those ineligible for FEMA programs can still seek help from voluntary agencies and faith-based organizations. Hurricane evacuees can access local recovery assistance about voluntary agencies by calling 2-1-1 , the Texas Information and Referral Network and identifying themselves as hurricane survivors.
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 .