Gulf Watch: FEMA grants reprieve to hurricanes' homeless

In a bit of good news on Hurricane Katrina and Rita recovery efforts, FEMA on Friday announced that it was extending housing assistance to storm-displaced Gulf Coast residents for at least another six months. The program was scheduled to expire next month, potentially displacing more than 100,000 families from their FEMA-funded trailers, mobile homes and rental units, as Chris reported here last week.

The news came via an announcement from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), following a late afternoon briefing by FEMA Director R. David Paulison:

"This is very welcome news for the thousands of Louisianians still struggling with the everyday challenges of recovery and rebuilding," Sen. Landrieu said. "Empowered by the security of a roof over their heads, our people can go about the process of repairing permanent homes, re-establishing children's schools and working side-by-side with neighbors to stand up our great communities yet again.

"In our conversation this afternoon, I thanked Director Paulison for committing to this necessary extension of the housing assistance program, and reminded him that the road to recovery is long and we still have an enormous number of difficult challenges ahead. Foremost among these is transitioning residents from temporary structures back into permanent homes. We will need Director Paulison's partnership and FEMA's willingness to work with us if we are to succeed."

A formal announcement from FEMA is expected some time this week.