HURRICANE KATRINA

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Thursday, September 29, 2005.

Welcome to Louisiana!

I went back to work today, stopping at a client's office to take care of a few things in the morning.  When I arrived at my office, the internet was out.  Since I left my radio in Houston, I had been listening to the live stream on www.wwl.com .  Without internet, no dice.  

I talked to some more people in my building today.  The lawyer downstairs lost her whole house, as did her fiancÚ.  They were moving a mattress into one of the back rooms of the office.  Ouch.

My brother-in-law Jeff got into his house today.  He lives in Orleans and had about 6' of water.  He leaned on a wall and it totally caved in.  His house is going to be a total loss...

***

I was just checking my bank account online, and I noticed that FEMA put another $2,358 dollars in my account. I had no idea why. I mean, it's stupid to complain, right? I found this:

Responding to hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by Katrina, Chertoff and Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced an estimated $2 billion program to pay for three-month rental costs anywhere in the country for homeowners or renters whose residences were destroyed in the storm.

Through the program, FEMA will pay upfront costs of $2,358 _ based on national fair-market housing rates _ for Louisiana and Mississippi victims who qualify. That amount would be adjusted after the three-month period, when victims have settled in and can determine their actual temporary rental costs.

Homeowners and renters will be eligible for assistance for up to 18 months as FEMA works with state and local authorities to rebuild the devastated communities, officials said.

Additionally, Katrina victims who had been living in public housing or were homeless when the storm hit will receive 100 percent residential assistance through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the official said.

OK. So here's the trick. I didn't have any temporary housing costs. We stayed with family, and I don't have any temporary housing costs now because I'm living in my (damaged) home. So do I have to give the money back? There isn't any information on this...

Being the geeky type, I decided to investigate further, and I managed to find this:

These payments will count toward the $26,200 maximum possible aid for personal property and housing assistance. FEMA reports it will continue to provide trailers and mobile homes for those households who prefer those. Households who select trailers will not get this three-month payment. (One exception is first responders who have been assigned to the disaster area. Many will be offered trailers, but their families who are located elsewhere will get the rental assistance.) If people choose to leave rental housing for trailers, they will no longer receive financial assistance.

Now, that's still not telling me much.  I decided to go straight to the FEMA website and see what they had to say.  I found this:

DHS Is Expediting Aid To Evacuees With Immediate Housing Needs. Because of Hurricane Katrina's unprecedented scope and the widespread dispersion of evacuees, FEMA is accelerating the Assistance to Individuals and Households program, which provides previous homeowners and renters with housing assistance. Rental assistance will begin with payments for three months of housing totaling $2,358 and will be extended for qualifying evacuees up to 18 months.

OK...  Still not really telling me anything.  Logging onto the FEMA assistance site, and reviewing my applicaiton, I see that they have sent me a form 6922.  What's that?  Hmmm...  I can't seem to find out.  Finally, I found this:

The money is supposed to be mailed or electronically transferred automatically to qualified evacuees who have registered with FEMA. However, agency letters being sent to applicants warn that they must complete and return an additional FEMA form within 14 days or they will not be eligible for additional benefits.

FEMA Form 90-69B, a document called a Declaration and Release that is supposed to be included with the agency letter, must be sent to FEMA or the applicant may be required to return the money already received, according to the agency. The form is a declaration that the person receiving the benefit is telling the truth.

FEMA relief programs can give an evacuee up to $26,200 for the emergency needs of food, shelter, clothing, personal items and medical conditions. Soon after Katrina, FEMA expedited evacuee checks of $2,000 as an initial emergency payment. Most of the people who received the $2,000 checks also will get the new rent payment, Sherman said.

The FEMA transitional rent program, announced Friday afternoon by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, has caught the attention of evacuated citizens nationwide, some of whom already have received wire transfers to their bank accounts. The payment covers three months of rent, but people who need more can get additional increments of three months, up to 18 months total.

People who apply for rental assistance beyond the initial lump-sum payment must provide documentation that they are "making efforts toward a permanent housing solution." The letter does not say what type of information would demonstrate such a motive.

[SNIP]

The initial payment is calculated based on the national average fair-market rent rate for a two-bedroom and may be applied to temporary housing costs "for any location an evacuee determines," FEMA says. The submission of rental receipts and other documentation could be required later.

The FEMA letter says the money is for "transitional housing needs" to be used "to rent a different place to live."

So, essentially, I'm going to have to fill out a form and give the money back, because I didn't have temporary housing expenses.  What troubles me is the number of people are going to go spend this 'free' money and not know this.  It was very hard for me to discover this information.  Then FEMA is going to turn around and want it back if you didn't have the expense.  Seems kind of bass-ackwards to me...  

***

The curfew is lifted!

For Immediate Release September 29, 2005 

Hurricane Curfews Lifted in Jefferson Parish Please be advised that the curfew in Jefferson Parish will be lifted beginning at midnight tonight, Thursday, September 29, 2005. This includes both the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Jefferson Parish.

***

Here are the pictures of the day.

That was a bad place to park that van...

Yes, that's a shoe that FLOATED to the ceiling and came to rest on the fan blade.  Same thing with the coat hanger...  At least parts of the ceiling were still dry...

Think about it.  Look around your house.  Hug your kids.  Be thankful this isn't you.

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