FEMA extends temporary housing program


By Philip Sayblack
Staff Writer

Friday, January 6, 2017

Local residents displaced by Hurricane Matthew now have more time to find new housing — but the new deadline comes with an important catch.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday it has extended the deadline for its Transitional Shelter Assistance Program by 30 days. The program was set to end tomorrow.

Agency officials said the program has been extended to Feb. 4, but FEMA Media Specialist Shirley Tracey said people who have been displaced by the storm can't just sit around and wait for help.

"In order to stay in transitional housing up to the new deadline, residents must prove they are looking for new housing," Tracey said. "Representatives will check in every 14 days to make sure survivors in FEMA-paid housing are looking for new housing."

Tracey said the agency will use one-on-one, case-by-case meetings with displaced people to determine who will remain eligible in each of the 14-day periods. She added more than 100 households statewide likely won't see their transitional housing assistance extended after tomorrow.

She said a number of factors play into whether or not a household's transitional housing assistance is extended, including whether or not a house has been deemed livable and the availability of other housing options.

Tracey said FEMA is working especially hard to provide housing options for Edgecombe County residents displaced by Hurricane Matthew. She said one household in Edgecombe County already has been placed in manufactured housing and 19 more households are expected to be placed in manufactured housing soon.

Tracey said the decision to extend the Transitional Shelter Assistance Program's deadline was made at the state level and added the decision came after agency heads saw North Carolinians were impacted even harder than previously believed.

"We have 1,600 people statewide who are in transitional housing without any other options," Tracey said. "That extraordinary number of people still displaced coupled with the extraordinary nature of Hurricane Matthew led to a request for this latest extension."

Tracey said 310 of the 1,600 households impacted across the state are in Edgecombe County. More than $5 million in housing assistance has been approved to date to help Edgecombe County residents impacted by Matthew and more than $425,000 for Nash County residents impacted by the storm.

At last check, almost 200 Nash County residents and 1,328 Edgecombe County residents were eligible for housing assistance. Tracey stressed while the deadline for FEMA's Transitional Housing Assistance Program has been extended, the deadline to register for FEMA aid ends Monday.

So far, 903 Nash County residents and 3,070 Edgecombe County residents have registered for FEMA assistance. Agency officials urge anyone who hasn't registered for assistance to do so now. Registration can be done online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov. 

Anyone impacted by Matthew can also register for assistance by phone at 1-800-621-3362. Those who are deaf, have hearing difficulties or speech disabilities can register by phone at 1-800-462-7585. Both numbers are in operation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the week.