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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2005, 15:00 GMT
US to cut Katrina hotel payments
Temporary trailers in Louisiana
Fema wants families to move into new temporary homes
Many US families forced to leave their homes by devastating storms have been told that funding for accommodation in hotels will be cut by 1 December.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), in charge of the relief effort, has paid evacuees some $274m (159m) since hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Almost 54,000 families are still living in hotels and motels in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi.

Fema wants people to move to temporary accommodation before finding new homes.

"There are still too many people living in hotel rooms, and we want to help them get into longer-term homes before the holidays," said David Paulson, acting director of Fema.

"Those affected by the storms should have the opportunity to become self-reliant again and reclaim some normalcy in their lives."

From 1 December, most families staying in hotels will either have to pay the bills themselves or cover the costs with Fema housing aid.

'Great concern'

Not all Katrina and Rita evacuees will be affected by the decision.

National guard troops help evacuate a family in New Orleans
Katrina devastated New Orleans and thousands were forced to flee
A total of 12,338 families being housed in hotels in Louisiana and Mississippi can stay until 7 January.

The decision will be most keenly felt in Texas and Georgia, where almost 28,000 hotel rooms are occupied by families.

Texas Governor Rick Parry stressed that evacuees must take personal responsibility for their welfare and housing.

"However, my great concern is that there is still no long-term housing plan for the hundreds of thousands of Katrina victims who lost everything - including their homes - as a result of the storm," he added.

New stage

Housing evacuees in hotels was the second stage in Fema's programme to rehouse the victims of Katrina and Rita.

Just 2,941 people remain in emergency shelters, down from a high of 321,000 after the storms, a Fema official said.

The agency is also consolidating housing aid and voucher schemes designed to help evacuees meet accommodation costs.

Voucher schemes will end on 1 March and housing aid will be sent directly to those who qualify.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall on 29 August, with Hurricane Rita sweeping through the Gulf coast on 24 September.


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