Is FEMA Deserting Katrina and Rita Victims Again?

On Friday, Dec. 22, a U.S. District Court of Appeals granted a stay of enforcement of the strongest part of Judge Richard Leon's ruling in ACORN vs. FEMA. The agency will not have to reinstate section 403 housing funds for Katrina and Rita survivors.

But all wasn’t lost in the appeals court ruling. FEMA remains under orders to give evacuees who were terminated from the housing assistance program meaningful and understandable explanations of why they were cut off.

We are terribly disappointed that the housing assistance needed to keep a roof over the heads of dislocated families will not be forthcoming this holiday season. The courts have still upheld the basic legal point we made from the beginning -- if you cut people off you have to tell them why -- and we will work with affected families to appeal wrongful denials.

We are hoping Congress works on making FEMA more responsible to the needs of these survivors. Many sections of New Orleans, particularly the Lower 9th Ward, are still uninhabitable. Louisiana’s Road Home program has hit a roadblock, with less than 100 families receiving any rebuilding funds 16 months after the nation’s worst natural disasters displaced them. Clearly, New Orleans is in dire need direct attention from Capitol Hill.

Our organizers will continue to reach out to affected families and assist them in filing appeals where appropriate. Our lawyers at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and Public Citizen will also continue litigating the case. Although legal proceedings are likely to continue to past the 18-month period of required housing assistance, the federal government has extended housing assistance longer following other, less severe disasters.