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FEMA Hotel Program for Wildfire Victims Nearing End

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

FEMA's Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which puts victims of Texas wildfires in hotels  while they search for more permanent housing, is coming to an end.

The program will officially end on December 9th in the six counties designated for assistance. Those counties include Bastrop and Travis counties in Central Texas, Cass and Marion in East Texas and Montgomery and Waller counties in the Houston area. 

"We feel confident that we can transition those families that are still living in hotels and motels into a more permanent situation," says Ray Perez, a FEMA public information officer speaking to KUT News from Bastrop.

Perez says FEMA was surprised by how few families affected by the wildfires asked for transitional assistance. 

"More than 2,300 families were eligible for this program, and only about 17% participated," said Perez. "The overwhelming majority of the families who were affected have found other ways to make this transition to more permanent housing."

Perez says there are individual case managers in Bastrop and other affected areas to work one-on-one with families. 

"Each case is different.  In some cases, they might have a situation where they know where they want to go, but they might have other needs – maybe they're short of transportation," explained Perez. "We need to assess all those situations to see what they need to make that transition to permanent housing, whether it is back to their homes, or to a rental home or to an apartment."

Perez also says that despite the challenge of rebuilding, he's found that those affected have maintained an overwhelmingly positive attitude.  

"They've gotten over the grieving process as quickly as possible and moved forward with the attitude of 'the past is the past, this is the present, I've got to move forward.'  This community has really rallied on many fronts – with the local officials and with the volunteer organizations and with families helping each other," said Perez. "That's probably helped them more than anything else."

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