The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has officially let down Hurricane Harvey survivors. As of Tuesday, about 1,400 Texans had to check out of the hotel rooms where they were staying in the aftermath of the storm that has left them homeless since last year, reports The Houston Chronicle.
Apparently, FEMA decided there’s enough housing in five Texas counties—Harris, Brazoria, Montgomery, Nueces, and Fort Bend—for these families to find a roof beyond hotel rooms. FEMA officials told The Chronicle that folks in these counties were asked to check out of their hotels. The agency notified them this would happen through phone calls last week, according to a news release.
FEMA had been subsidizing the hotel costs since the hurricane, but it won’t anymore for these families. It’s pointing residents instead to other programs like Other Needs Assistance grants and 211 Texas, a state-run service agency.
“If you happen to be living in a county that does have the resources for rental, then we would prefer you to stop renting because the hotel assistance is just a short-term, interim assistance,” FEMA spokesman Tobe Nguyen told The Chronicle. “Houston is starting to rebuild, so there are other resources, apartments, and rentals that are available, so that’s why they should be moving forward to go back and rent.”
Nguyen told The Chronicle that approximately 2,300 households are still in FEMA-funded hotel rooms across the state. Eligible residents in other counties can extend their Transitional Shelter Assistance until May 31. These include people “who are working on a permanent housing solution,” Lauren Hersh, a FEMA spokesperson for the region, told Earther. The agency determines this by looking at a few factors: Are they saving money for a down payment on an apartment? Have they looked at other housing? Have they accepted FEMA referrals for permanent housing?
If they haven’t done any of that, per Hersh, it’s likely they’re ineligible for an extension. That means they lose their temporary assistance and must turn to family members or local nonprofits for help instead.
Housing crises often follow natural disasters. As hurricane-force winds and unimaginable flooding tear through homes and apartment buildings, people are left figuring out where they can go next. Hurricane Maria survivors who left Puerto Rico for New York and Florida were facing a similar situation last week, but FEMA extended their assistance.
Looks like the agency can’t—or won’t—help everyone.