FEMA to start charging rent for trailers

GALVESTON, TX The 18-month mark on Galveston's road to recovery is bringing more frustration for people still living in FEMA trailers because the agency is going to start charging rent.

Maria Chavez's frustration with her road to recovery from Hurricane Ike is evident on her face as she explains. Her home is a total loss. Her family is stuffed into a tiny FEMA trailer. Now FEMA is about to charge her rent due April 1.

"Three hundred fifty-two dollars and twenty cents," said Chavez.

It's money Maria and her daughter Yojanna Perez barely have. They don't know what they'll do and the women don't know how long they'll be paying it, even though they've been approved for help from the City of Galveston Recovery Program.

"We went in there and we qualified, but we don't know when they're going to start to rebuild our home," said Perez.

FEMA told us as far as the monthly rent goes, it's determined by a case-by-case basis. A spokesman said homeowners might be able to negotiate based on their income.

Around the corner in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood, the Jimenez's showed us the letter they got from FEMA reducing their rent from an original $850 a month to $421.

"We're small income people. We don't have that much after we cover other bills," said Marco Jimenez.

He says he got $11,000 from their insurance company, even though there was about $45,000 worth of damage from wind and water. He says he has done a lot of work himself by putting in new windows and drywall, even building a new porch. But he can't do the electrical or plumbing work. He too qualified for help from the City of Galveston Recovery Program.

"They're supposed to start it in April, so we're hoping that they will get those contractors to start the job," said Jimenez.

The people we talked to still living in FEMA trailers say they do not want rental assistance that will put them in apartments elsewhere because they want to stay on their property to keep thieves and vandals away.

A FEMA spokesperson told us that he has not heard of any plans for extensions.

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