Flood victims still living in hotels and motels since August's floods are getting another reprieve, and now won't be forced to move out until Feb. 10.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday granted the state's request to extend the deadline for financial assistance for those still displaced as they struggle to return home or finding more permanent housing solutions.
The state is expected to file another extension request should the number of families still depending on FEMA's Transitional Sheltering Assistance program not sharply decrease over the next 24 days.
"FEMA has been pretty good about working with us on these extensions to make sure the program doesn't end prematurely," said Mike Steele, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management.
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The deadline was set for Tuesday before the extension was granted. The state has been granted multiple extensions — routinely every 30 days — since flood waters swamped neighborhoods and washed out roads in the region back in August.
The most recent extension is only 24 days rather than 30 days because the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program is reaching its 180-day policy term limit.
The state will have to request a wavier of the federal program's term limit should significant need for it continue as the Feb. 10 deadline nears.
As of Thursday, there were still 1,268 families still housed in 184 hotels and motels in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, according to FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering. Approximately 60 percent of the families are renters opposed to homeowners, he said.
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FEMA's sheltering assistance program requires participants to be actively seeking long-term housing solutions while the federal government picks up the tab for their extend hotel stays.
Pickering said state and community volunteer groups, including the American Red Cross and the Louisiana Department of Health,are working with displaced flood victims on that front. But there are challenges, he said, and officials are aware of them.
"There's not a lot of rental property available in the area," Pickering said.
And, Steele noted, the rental property that is available isn't affordable to flood victims still stuck in motels.
"There's always constant analysis of the program going on to asset what the needs are and what could be done to address them," Steele said.