FEMA Relocation Reimbursement

FEMA has made some changes in its program of reimbursing homesick Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees for the costs of moving back to Louisiana. More people are eligible for it. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

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FEMA announced the moving reimbursements program in September, and originally, they were available only to Katrina and Rita evacuees who moved home after February 1st of 2006, six months after the two storms hit Louisiana in August of 2005. People who moved home before February of '06 didn't qualify, but that's been changed.  FEMA has moved the eligibility date all the way back to August of '05 for Katrina evacuees, and September of '05 for Rita evacuees -- just days after both storms. FEMA Spokesman George Flynn says this opens the door for a lot more people to go home at FEMA's expense, if that's what they want to do.

"We think it's going to be quite popular. There's still probably 9,000 households that are in FEMA rental plans in the Houston area, and of course far more have gone on to private housing and other lodging." 

Flynn says the moving reimbursement program is open to every person who was forced to evacuate Louisiana by the two storms, and who've been getting benefits from FEMA. 

"Generally if you haven't received the full amount of the FEMA allotted assistance for either one of the hurricane disasters, that adds up to about $26,000 total, then you can still apply for it. You have to be in the FEMA program, or you have to have been in the FEMA program from the start and have a FEMA number, and that kind of thing."

Even though FEMA has handed all the hurricane recovery programs over to HUD, Flynn says the moving reimbursement program won't be affected, but it won't go on forever. He says there is a deadline and it's getting close.

"It is important to note that the deadline on this is February 29 of next year, so you have to have moved by then in order to receive these funds."

There's more information on this and other federal hurricane recovery programs on our website KUHF.org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.