Thousands of Katrina survivors scattered throughout the country may be about to lose their homes due to changes in FEMA funding.
"[FEMA] is shifting some 55,000 people from federally funded housing-voucher programs run by municipal and local housing authorities across the country, into a separate centralized and more restricted program. As a result, about 12,000 households have already been notified that they will lose their rental assistance. The policy shift is generating fears that many more could lose their benefits or see them drastically reduced under the new program.
Last Friday, a coalition of public-interest legal and advocacy organizations filed a class-action lawsuit in a Houston federal district court to halt FEMA's plans for terminating the city-based shelter program. Bringing claims of various inadequacies in its assistance programs, the suit accused FEMA of making 'arbitrary, inconsistent and inequitable housing decisions without using any ascertainable standards.'
John Brittain, with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups involved with the litigation, articulated the concern driving the legal action. He said the rollback in housing assistance shows that 'FEMA intends to pretty much wash its hands of Katrina disaster relief, at least in terms of temporary housing assistance, and will expect people to be on their own.'"
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