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Judge: FEMA Can Halt Direct Hotel Payments

February 13, 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A judge let the federal government Monday drop some 12,000 families made homeless by last year’s hurricanes from a program that has put them up at hotels nationwide.

FEMA has promised the evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that they will still receive federal assistance that they can use toward hotel stays or fixing their ruined homes, although the agency will no longer pay for the hotels directly.

Attorneys for the evacuees tried to get U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval to issue a temporary restraining order, saying the forthcoming money from FEMA won’t be enough for reasonable living accomodations or for hotel stays.

``We have provided the court with statements from people showing they have not been treated fairly by FEMA,″ Bill Quigley, who filed the motion with civil rights attorney Tracie Washington, said before Monday’s ruling.

Stanwood denied the request a day after the attorneys delivered the request to his home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is stopping payment for hotel rooms across the country for 12,000 families made homeless by last year’s storms.

About 10,500 families, or 88 percent, have received rent-assistance checks from FEMA, said Libby Turner, the agency’s transitional housing director. The cash can be used to pay for an apartment or to continue their hotel stays. It also can be put toward fixing their ruined homes.

Monday marks the second wave of evacuees losing FEMA financing of their hotel rooms. Last week, the occupants of roughly 4,500 rooms lost FEMA funding for failing to register with the agency.

In Louisiana, officials offered shelters to those leaving the hotels, but according to FEMA, only one family needed sheltering.

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