Evacuees Have Less Than a Month to Move Out of Hotels - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/09/05 - Lufkin

Evacuees Have Less Than a Month to Move Out of Hotels

by Ramonica R. Jones

FEMA has extended the state's deadline for moving evacuees out of hotels and motels. The new deadline is January 7th, instead of next Thursday.

The extension will give state and local leaders more time to help storm victims make the transition to more permanent housing.

Still, Governor Perry believes evacuees and their families will need even more time to find a suitable home.

After FEMA set a deadline for shelter closures, many evacuees rushed to get into hotels, motels, and apartments, but a lot of storm victims are still out of work and won't be able to pay rent when FEMA stops picking up the tab.

Darlene Rayford and her New Orleans neighbor moved into a three-bedroom apartment in north Lufkin two months ago. They signed the lease thinking FEMA would pay their rent for the next year.

"When we took the apartment, it was with the understanding that for the next 12 to 18 months FEMA would be picking up the tab, so we pretty much weren't too worried," said Rayford. "We were like, we'll find a job within that time span."

Rayford's been on job interviews, but can't seem to find anything that'll help her make ends meet.

"In New Orleans, I made $10.35 an hour; here, when I go for an interview - in most cases - they aren't looking for managers, so they want to stick me at $5.40 per hour, $5.70 per hour."

January 7th is also the cut-off date for new FEMA-reimbursed apartment leases. That leaves less than a month for other hurricane evacuees to sign a FEMA-reimbursed apartment lease. For Rayford and other storm victims currently living in an apartment, FEMA will stop picking up the tab in March.

New Orleans is still a wreck, but Rayford has a job waiting for her there. It'll be hard to go to work everyday knowing you won't have a home to go to at night.

More than a hundred days after Katrina, more than 30,000 hurricane evacuees still live in Texas hotels and motels.

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