New Orleans Predictably now that Gustav is a fading memory for some three weeks old and Ike is now kicking us from the Louisiana coast to the terrible devastation in Galveston with rain and power outages in Houston, FEMA finally calls itself “clarifying” its position on reimbursements and hotels. A piece in the morning Times-Picayune was presented with a straight face, which must have been almost more than the reporter could muster.
The rumors and reports have gone back and forth as FEMA has twisted itself with the wind on what it would or would not pay. They tried to weasel out of paying for people’s hotel stays even when they could not return because there was no power and the house was uninhabitable by saying the house had to be damaged.
Now their “new” clarification says that they might pay for hotel stays if you meet three conditions:
* You have to have a new FEMA number
* Your parish or county has to have been declared a disaster area (most of South Louisiana fits in this category of course, including the entire metro New Orleans area)
* Your primary residence is “unlivable due to damage or lack of power.”
That’s better. Families in Baton Rouge are still without power in whole neighborhoods to this day. Families in Houston and surrounding counties will face this for extended periods as well. There is also temporary housing assistance available but these are reimbursements. FEMA wants to push people towards a website on qualified hotels, but that’s many days late and a lot of dollars short.
It takes no imagination to conclude that this will still be a huge and furious fight with FEMA to get a red cent, because they continue to believe that all residents must be punished for being forced to evacuate and being in a disaster area.
In this bland and buried article, FEMA also mentioned that they had a program offering a $500 emergency assistance grant that folks could seek, even if they did not qualify for temporary housing.
Thousands again were on line at the New Orleans Convention Center on Saturday trying to get their emergency food stamps. I dread thinking about the lines and mayhem for people to try and get any of these FEMA benefits.
Of course that assumes that anyone will ever hear about any of these benefits now.