Texas officials ask FEMA for trailers

October 8, 2008 6:59:52 PM PDT
With thousands still homeless after Hurricane Ike and very little housing available in Beaumont, Texas officials are pleading with FEMA to make good on its promise for more trailers. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim

A federal plan to provide rental assistance fell flat in the Beaumont area because little housing is available. Thousands are staying away from their homes or sleeping in cars and tents outside their flooded homes.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have said more manufactured houses were on the way. As of Tuesday, 14 mobile homes were occupied in the region, FEMA said. Orange County officials said at a meeting Tuesday that about 4,000 are needed.

"We are terribly concerned about shrinkage of the tax base, and we are terribly concerned about shrinkage of our citizenry," Orange Mayor William Brown Claybar said in Wednesday's edition of the Beaumont Enterprise.

The area is among many still struggling to recover since Ike slammed the Texas coast Sept. 13, flattening buildings and leaving at least 37 dead.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison sent a letter this week to FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison calling for faster deployment of the housing. Cornyn urged William Peterson, FEMA director for the five-state area including Texas, to tell him how he could speed the process.

Cornyn said in a statement he spoke by phone with Paulison Wednesday morning and was assured work will be done in coming days to deliver mobile homes to the area.

"I've been as frustrated as anyone with these delays," Cornyn said. "However, Administrator Paulison assured me personally this morning that we will see a dramatically ramped-up effort to deliver mobile homes to Southeast Texas."

Peterson said FEMA's ability to get and deliver housing had been slowed by health concerns over formaldehyde in some trailers, and that he couldn't provide a timeline for delivery.

Shaun P. Davis, executive director of the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission, where the meeting was held, pledged assistance to speed the process.

Also Wednesday, President Bush agreed to allow Texas counties to collect full reimbursement for costs of debris removal through Oct. 26. The 100 percent reimbursement had expired Sept. 26. Hutchison and Cornyn had asked for the extension.

"With this announcement, local elected officials can return their complete focus on cleaning up the area and rebuilding neighborhoods. I appreciate that the President heard our concerns and agreed to our request," Hutchison said in a statement.

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