Deadline extended through winter for FEMA-paid hotel stays

AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at the request of the State of Texas, is extending the deadline for its transitional sheltering initiative until March 13, 2009.

Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) provides temporary hotel/motel lodging for eligible Texans who cannot return home because their dwellings are still damaged and unlivable.

FEMA reviews TSA participants' status every two weeks to offer housing solutions, to ensure they continue to be eligible for assistance and that their transition to more permanent housing is done in a timely manner.

"This is a fluid program," said acting Federal Coordinating Officer Brad Harris. "The goal is to move displaced Texans from temporary transitional shelter to more permanent housing almost as quickly as it becomes available."

TSA first became available on Sept. 14, 2008, and has since helped more than 26,000 people. Only about 1 percent of those referred for housing assistance, or about 4,600 applicants, are still living in FEMA-paid hotel rooms.

"Extending this assistance through the winter months is going to help a great deal," said State Coordinating Officer Joan Haun. "A hotel or motel room may not be home, but it's a safe and warm option for our people."

Through a standing contract, FEMA pays for the lodging directly to hotels and motels.  More than $489 million has already been billed to FEMA. Under the program, FEMA assumes responsibility for 75 percent of the cost; the state of Texas pays the remaining 25 percent. Applicants are responsible for their own meals and for any lodging costs above the authorized allowance.