A halloween decoration with "FEMA" written on it is displayed in January in the Broad Channel section of Queens, New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Federal emergency housing assistance for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy is scheduled to expire on Friday, Feb. 8, unless the Federal Emergency Management Agency announces an extension.
That means families whose own homes are unlivable have to move out of the hotels and motels they are currently staying in, or start paying for them out of pocket. About 2,000 families are still living in hotels in New York, and 1,500 in New Jersey, according to the Wall Street Journal.
FEMA has previously announced four two-week extensions of the hotel stays, and hasn’t decided yet if they will once again push the deadline back and allow an extra few weeks for families to find more permanent lodging.
“Their objective is to move them out of temporary housing, hotels, and if able get them into alternative rental housing,” says David H.K. Nguyen, director of Disaster Legal Services, a program administered by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division designed to provide temporary legal assistance to disaster victims. “That deadline will depend on being able to accomplish that goal.”
Landlords agreed to make 2,500 affordable units available in New York to people who lost their homes in the storm; however, as of last week only one family had finalized an agreement. Unfortunately, even “affordable housing” is proving too expensive for people who might have lost everything to Sandy. In some cases, FEMA will help with rent for a limited amount of time.
David H.K. Nguyen
Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard in October, bringing untold destruction down on Jersey Shore towns and large parts of New York City. Untold thousands of people were displaced from their homes and the recovery is only barely getting started.
President Obama on Jan. 29 signed a bill authorizing an additional $50.7 billion in aid to help with recovery. Congress had previously authorized $9.7 billion earlier in the month. The bulk of the money will go to FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Transit Administration.
About $780 million had previously been approved, of which about $300 million went toward housing assistance, $75 million of it for the hotel program.
People who need help with housing or other matters related to Hurricane Sandy can visit a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in their area for more information. Centers can be found be texting DRC and your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA), and people can also call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362.
The agency also has a housing portal set up to help disaster victims find a place to rent.
DLS attorneys are also still standing by to help with paperwork or other legal matters related to the storm. Nguyen says that DLS has fielded over 3,000 calls since Hurricane Sandy, in addition to providing in-person help in disaster recovery centers.
“If for some reason people feel like either they are not getting assistance, or assistance was denied, they’re more than welcome to call Disaster Legal Services hotline,” he says.
DLS now has assistance lines set up in four states for additional help:
New Jersey Hurricane Sandy hotline number: 1-888-541-1900
New York Hurricane Sandy hotline number: 1-800-699-5636
Connecticut Hurricane Sandy hotline number: 1-866-864-4464
Maryland Hurricane Sandy hotline number: 1-866-858-0039