Friday, May 12, 2006

Hutchison urged to help keep evacuee aid flowing

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Dozens of housing advocates, social workers and others have asked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to help extend housing assistance for another four or five months to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
The letter, signed by more than 80 individuals and nonprofit groups, asks Hutchison, R-Texas, to add language to an emergency hurricane appropriations bill instructing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue assistance for a year from the date evacuees enrolled. For most, this would be in early fall.

Hutchison serves on a conference committee that is expected to try next week to resolve differences in House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.

Chris Paulitz, a Hutchison spokesman , said the senator is aware of the letter but could not immediately say whether she would comply with the request.

"Numerous public officials in Houston and throughout Texas have expressed their sincere gratitude for Senator Hutchison's tireless efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Paulitz said. "The senator will continue her work to keep the $1.5 billion she secured for Texas emergency funding whole."

FEMA is moving evacuees from the emergency assistance program, which provides vouchers that cover rent and utilities, to an individual assistance program that only covers rent. As many as 20,000 Houston evacuees recently received letters from FEMA stating that they were ineligible for the individual assistance program.

Mayor Bill White has said many of the ineligibility determinations were inaccurate, and FEMA has agreed to continue assistance through June 30 while it reviews each case.

John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service, one of the groups that signed the letter, said the request would not require any additional funding.


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