“How the system works is that the state needs to make a request to FEMA, and at this point, I don’t know if the state has made that request,” Perez said. “If the state feels there is a need, FEMA would then review the request.”
Perez said that FEMA announces the decision as soon as it’s made, adding that the agency is working with the families to find housing options in case the deadline is not extended.
“I understand the difficulty of having that uncertainty,” Perez said. “The important thing to realize for those who are in the program is that they can always contact FEMA to see what their housing options are and to get whatever assistance they need. We encourage them to call 1-800-621-3362 or to visit one of the disaster recovery centers.”
In the case of the Best Western hotel, the management is trying to help out where it can. “FEMA is the one that is deciding whether to extend [the residents’] stays with us,” said Alan Chan, general manager of the Best Western. “We offer our guests the opportunity to stay with us at a lower rate than our regular rate if FEMA decides to cancel the funding.”
Storm victims currently occupy 70 of the motel’s 100 rooms.
For all the factors working against them, many guests remain upbeat, and they have made connections that have helped remind them that they are not alone. Many of them celebrated the New Year in the hotel lobby, Gerry said, and on the day FEMA announced the most recent extension, a group went out to celebrate.
“This hotel is like the Rock of Gibraltar,” he said. “It’s a place to be with people who care, with similar needs. They handle all issues beautifully.”
Mike said that he expects most of the work to be done on his house within two weeks. But Gerry, who is depending on contractors, may not have a livable house for four to six weeks.
Both men said they understand how much work lies ahead of them. “We are very optimistic, and we’re not going anywhere,” Gerry said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”