Federal assistance paying for Louisiana flood victims to stay in hotel and motel rooms came to an end Wednesday, with the 73 families still relying on the temporary shelter told they had to move on.
However, a state-managed hotel housing program is giving about half of the families a little more time to resolve their long-term housing issues in the wake of the historic floods that swamped much of southwest Louisiana.
Michael Steele, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said several local agencies are working together to provide resources to the remaining flood victims.
"About 37 households were eligible for the state-managed hotel housing program. The remaining 36 households were already checked out of hotels Wednesday," Steele said. "Some had options provided to them by all the agencies involved in case management, or they already had housing solutions in place."
The agencies involved include the Louisiana Housing Corporation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Louisiana Office of Community Development and state Department of Health and Hospitals.
"The Louisiana Housing Corporation will re-evaluate the continuing needs for families every two weeks," he said. "It's important for us to make sure these people are in the process of moving forward in whatever their long-range plans are."
However, Steele added, a handful of flood-impacted families were not responsive to the state's outreach efforts.
The state-managed hotel housing program is being funded through grant dollars, Steele said. And many of the families may get to remain in the hotels they've called home since the flood.
At its peak, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Transitional Sheltering Assistance program helped 4,300 households, with families staying in 401 hotels across 16 states after the August floods.
The hotel stays total costs added up to approximately $42 million, FEMA spokesman Jake Conley said Wednesday. Their stays were estimated to cost about $103 per night.
"TSA is meant to serve survivors as a short-term, emergency sheltering program rather than a long-term housing solution; the program has served its purpose," Conley said in a news release.
The TSA program was extended nine times since the August floods at the state's request. The extensions exceeded the programs federal-regulated six-month deadline.
Steele praised FEMA for working with the state to extend the program beyond its regulatory deadline.
Samuel Sanders, executive director for Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, said the small fraction of people still depending on federal and state assistance post-floods are mostly households headed by elderly people and by low-income families who were barely making ends meet before the disaster.
"A majority of folks we've been dealing with didn't have insurance so what FEMA assistance they got they were living off those funds instead of fixing their homes because they weren't prepared," Sanders said.
Sanders' group is one of seven local agencies doing repair and rebuilds for flood victims under the umbrella of East Baton Rouge's Long-term Recovery Committee.
He said the committee has helped about 15 families get back into their homes since August.
"These individuals are definitely relying on assistance from outside parties, and those outside parties are strapped without enough resources to help everyone," Sanders said. "Many folks are reaching out to whatever groups they can to do rehab work on their homes. They're just piecing things together as best they can."