Another FEMA deadline extended

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via KUHF:

Katrina evacuees enrolled in a program that pays their rent and utilities will now have more time to recertify for that housing assistance. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, FEMA has extended a deadline three months in order to clear-up confusion.

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The extension affects thousands of evacuee families in Houston who qualified for emergency housing assistance after last year’s hurricanes. Typically, families have to prove that they’re using the assistance money to pay their rent and utilities every three months in order to continue in the program. FEMA’s Franchesca Ramos says many evacuees didn’t realize they had to recertify.

“We understand that many people had July 31st and August 31st deadlines to recertify and we understand that this can create confusion for evacuee families on the different government programs, so we have provided this extended period to allow them time to provide to us the necessary documentation in order for them to recertify.”

FEMA says thousands of evacuee families received letters informing them about the recertification requirements, but only about 10-percent responded. The agency feared that almost 30,000 evacuees would have to be recertified at the end of August, but because of the extended deadline, that’s no longer the case.

(Professional sensitives should not read any further.)

Unbelievable. Evacuees were sent letters from FEMA telling them to recertify and 90% ignored the directives? So now they will get three more months to ignore more letters? How do they function if they can’t follow basic directions?

Their rent and utilities will be paid through next February and we all know what will happen then — another extension. How long will Houston have to provide a home for those who will not get jobs and support themselves? Even Mayor White’s patience is running out (AP story via

Houston Mayor Bill White, standing beside newly re-elected New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, said evacuees could answer Nagin’s plea to return home, or they were welcome to stay in Houston, if they got jobs.

And in Houston, finding a job just shouldn’t be that hard:

Job counselor Ayodele Ogunye of WorkSource, the city’s employment assistance program, said jobless evacuees complain about the overwhelming bus and rail systems that make navigation difficult, or the bureaucratic holdups like professional licenses that are invalid in Texas.

But some of it, Ogunye said, is in their heads.

The fear of a new hurricane season worried one of her clients so much that “it was like it set her back 10 months.” Others do not know how to market themselves or lack confidence, which Ogunye thinks is traced to feelings of isolation in the “evacuee” corner of their apartment complexes, where no one socializes like their lifelong neighbors in New Orleans.

“I cannot help to wonder if (the unemployment) has anything to do with the uniqueness of the community,” Ogunye said. “It seems like some have never had to make choices or decide for themselves.”

This is what dependence on government will get you. It is not compassionate to continue to let taxpayers foot the bill for those who can do for themselves but refuse to do so. That is what fosters an entitlement mentality, and it does not promote self-worth.

Asked if there was any reason why a person who wanted a job in Houston could not find one, Ron Rodriguez, director of operations for WorkSource, said, “No.”

That sentiment is shared at WorkSource’s southwest office, where about seven of every 10 clients Ogunye meets is a Katrina refugee. The WorkSource building conspicuously stands out on a street of fast-food restaurants and strip malls, some with “Help Wanted” on the marquees.

Ogunye said “one does begin to wonder” why so many are still jobless after 10 months. Fellow counselor Melodie Lee was more blunt: “(Katrina) was awful, but let’s move on. It is time you had a Plan B.”

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.