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Gov. Gregoire asks President Bush to reconsider deadline Washington requests FEMA to extend housing programs

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2005

OLYMPIA - Nov. 21, 2005 - Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked President Bush to reconsider the deadline announced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to end hotel/motel housing assistance for Katrina and Rita evacuees on Dec. 1. Washington has also officially requested FEMA continue housing programs until Jan. 7, 2006, and allow 12-month leases under the FEMA interim housing program.

FEMA announced Nov. 14 that as of Dec. 1 it would end its Corporate Lodging Consultants (CLC) hotel/motel housing and not accept new leases of public housing for hurricane evacuees. FEMA also directed that the entire interim housing lease program end March 1, 2006.

“The timeframe outlined does not provide sufficient time to locate and provide housing for the thousands of people who are still residing in hotels. Evacuees have endured unspeakable loss, and your agency’s actions will devastate lives even further,” the governor said in a Nov. 17 letter to the President.

Washington joined many other states in response to FEMA’s request to provide housing and services to evacuees. “We not only worked to accommodate immediate needs, but our community and faith-based organizations have worked tirelessly to find additional resources and help our guests begin their recovery,” the governor said. “FEMA’s proposal would create a situation whereby many of these folks will become homeless again.”

An estimated 5,000 evacuees are living in counties across Washington. About 200 families are living in hotels in King County alone.

The new housing aid deadlines “will have financial and emotional impacts to the people who have temporarily relocated to our state from the hurricane impacted states and will create immediate threats to life, health and safety for these people who are unable to be placed into interim housing and will become homeless,” wrote Kurt Hardin, who was appointed by Gov. Gregoire as state coordinating officer for Washington’s Katrina disaster declaration signed Sept. 7 by President Bush.

“Placing an arbitrary date of Dec. 1, 2005, to cut off funding for those families remaining in the CLC housing violates previous FEMA guidance and could force families out of the hotels and into the streets, increasing Washington State’s homeless population. This will severely impact state social services and effectively transfer the cost for housing evacuees from the federal government to Washington State,” he added.

Hardin, manager of the Washington Emergency Management Division’s Mitigation, Response and Recovery Unit, sent his request to FEMA Region 10 Director John Pennington, who serves as the federal coordinating officer for Washington’s portion of the Katrina disaster declaration.

“The work has just begun,” wrote Gov. Gregoire to President Bush. “The immediate response might be over, but the recovery for the evacuees is just beginning. We need to work cooperatively to address this national disaster. I urge the federal government to follow our lead and show the compassion needed to support the families and individuals that have suffered from this disaster.”

Public agencies, community and faith-based organizations will sponsor a workshop for hurricane evacuees from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Seattle Convention and Trade Center to provide services and information concerning housing, health care, employment opportunities, child care and school related services.

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