Ike-extension flap means industry layoffs

September 30, 2010 3:40:40 PM PDT
Several social service agencies were scrambling Thursday after lawmakers failed to grant an extension to help victims of Hurricane Ike. The indecision means millions of dollars initially set aside for services for hurricane victims is no longer available, and it could also cost some people in the industry their jobs.

It's not hard to still find blue roofs in the greater Houston area. One woman hasn't lived in her home since Hurricane Ike, which is why many are surprised Congress didn't pass the crucial legislation necessary to keep the funds flowing.

Irene Wolford has lived under a blue roof since Hurricane Ike hit, and she's been waiting for repairs ever since.

"They've been promising and promising me they're going to fix the house," Wolford said.

For many homeowners like her, the wait is about to get even longer.

On Wednesday, Congress could not get a hurricane relief extension passed, which means millions of dollars already allocated for hurricane relief can't be spent.

"We are devastated by the news that the extension was not approved," said Andrea Gillis with Neighborhood Centers.

Gillis says homes set for repair will be put on hold. In addition, the jobs of about two dozen employees who administer the program at the agency are in limbo.

And they're not alone.

"In our agency alone, there are approximately 10 positions that will be lost as of the end of business today that were devoted to utilizing those funds," Catholic Charities' Harold Fattig said.

Fattig says they're trying to relocate 10 employees, but worry smaller subcontractors will have to lay off people outright.

"Keep as many of those people as possible, but the result is that some of them will lose their jobs today," Fattig said.

And with Congress not scheduled to return until after the elections, jobs will disappear, and Wolford's home will remain in disrepair.

"They promise me, promise me they're going to fix it, but they never ever did it," Wolford said.

Exactly how many jobs will be lost is unclear because there are agencies in Harris, Brazoria and Galveston counties. Many are trying to find other places to put those employees, even if temporarily, until Congress comes back and tries to pass that extension.


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