Help is on the way, at least temporarily, for people displaced by floods who are seeking housing and assistance buying food.
FEMA is offering temporary shelter assistance by paying for hotel rooms on a rolling 30-day basis for people who lost their homes in the flooding and who register their claims with FEMA.
The hotel assistance only applies to people who are living in a car, a hotel or motel, a mass shelter or at their place of employment because of displacement.
Those who are registered with FEMA will get a phone call over the next several days to initiate the process, referring them to a website with available hotel room options. They will be given registration numbers and government IDs for check-in at the hotels. The rooms will be paid for through FEMA.
There were roughly 2,700 vacant rooms for hotels contracted with FEMA on Friday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Friday news conference that the hotel aid does not apply to people who are able to stay with friends and family, because it's for people with the most urgent housing needs.
He also reminded victims that FEMA dollars are available to reimburse people who seek a rental home. In those cases, victims will have to front the initial cost of renting a temporary home, while awaiting potential reimbursement which is capped at $33,000.
Disaster food stamps are also being made available on Monday in eight parishes. The program called Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, DSNAP is intended to help people hurt by the flood buy a month's worth of groceries.
People who are already eligible for SNAP benefits do not need to apply, because the additional benefits will automatically be applied to their cards.
The state is accepting pre-applications for disaster food stamps that will be made available…
The pre-loaded debit cards will provide grocery money for families based on their family size. A family of four could receive up to a $650 allotment.
The first parishes to get the DSNAP benefits will be: East Feliciana, Iberia, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry Tangipahoa and Vermilion.
Beginning Aug. 29, East Baton Rouge Parish, Lafayette, Ascension, Acadia and Lafayette will be able to receive DSNAP benefits.
People can pre-register for DSNAP benefits online at www.dcfs.la.gov/preregister or by calling 1-888-LAHELP-U.
Edwards also announced on Friday that shelters would begin consolidating.
On Saturday, those staying at the Southern University shelter will be moved to the Baton Rouge River Center downtown. On Monday, people staying at Celtic Studios would also begin moving to the River Center.
There are still about 4,000 people who are staying at official shelters.
Edwards said long term plans for housing were in the works and would be unveiled Wednesday. He said new and improved FEMA trailers, ones that are an upgrade from the widely criticized version used after Hurricane Katrina, are being considered.
On Friday, he said it was unclear how many people were in need of short-term or long-term housing because of the flooding.