Long-term housing help available

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Rita Egan of FEMA says starting this month, many survivors of Hurricane Ike will get word of a big helping hand -- that they qualify for money to pay their rent for several months, somewhere like an apartment, while their own home repairs are underway.

"Their homes are not habitable, and their homes have been inspected," Egan said. "That's when we do everything in our power to help them find a safe, sanitary, secure environment."

Disaster recovery centers were the starting point for many Ike survivors, and now FEMA has given the names of 9,200 of its applicants to HUD -- the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"HUD will be contacting all referred applicants and making sure housing issues are resolved and they will also begin making rental payments," Egan said.

Northwest Houston resident Deborah Jones said, "We did have damage to our home, the roof structure and some of the outer buildings."

Jones was at the recovery center Saturday morning. Her home was damaged, but livable.

"We do have funding that's on the way, so that was good," she said.

Also good to know, others, in an even worse position, are starting to get the help they need, too.

"I can just imagine what those families are going through," Jones said. "Our family, we had minor loss compared to what others went through."

The housing assistance is temporary but it will last awhile. FEMA plans to continue this program until March 2010. It's just one way FEMA claims it's trying to help.

Egan explained, "We are looking at all avenues, and the HUD program is another avenue we implement at a time like this."

FEMA's deputy administrator admits the agency has been slow to respond to Texans affected by Hurricane Ike. But he says the agency is picking up the pace to get mobile homes to the hardest hit areas. As far as rental assistance goes, if you qualify for long-term help, FEMA says you'll be notified by FEMA by mail. You should also get a letter from HUD.

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