FEMA trailers head to Sandy-ravaged communities

20,000 mobile homes and travel trailers owned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 20,000 mobile homes and travel trailers owned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Danny Johnston/AP

Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers are heading to East Coast communities hit hard by megastorm Sandy to provide temporary housing for people the disaster left homeless.

The agency is deploying the mobile homes, which became ubiquitous on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to give people displaced by the storm another temporary housing option, said FEMA chief Craig Fugate during a conference call with reporters Thursday. The agency also is providing rental assistance to disaster victims, which can be used for apartments, hotels or motels.

More than $300 million is going toward housing aid for Sandy victims, Fugate said, which is the lion’s share of the $320 million in assistance the agency has provided so far. Fugate said he did not know offhand how many people to date have received temporary housing assistance or how many trailers ultimately would be needed. People typically live in the manufactured housing for up to 18 months, though many Katrina victims lived in trailers for years.

Fugate also said Wednesday’s nor’easter, which hit many of the same areas walloped by Sandy a little more than a week ago, created more power outages and temporarily shut down disaster response operations.

Reporters on the conference call said they’d received information from frustrated disaster victims who had not yet received FEMA housing assistance. “It’s a hierarchy of need,” Fugate said, adding the priority now is providing shelter for those who are homeless as a result of the storm. He told reporters to let the agency know about people who are not in their homes and need a place to stay.

FEMA trailers have a mixed reputation. While the mobile homes can provide immediate and relatively safe shelter for victims, they also were criticized after Katrina for having hazardous levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen linked to numerous health problems, including breathing difficulties. This past spring, a federal judge approved a $42.6 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against companies that provided trailers to FEMA to house victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Fugate referred a question on the quality of the trailers being deployed to house Sandy victims to the Housing and Urban Development Department, since that agency regulates manufactured housing standards.

Disasters create different categories of need and the government’s way of prioritizing those needs can perplex victims. Some are left homeless and need immediate temporary housing assistance; others are able to live in their homes but must wait for FEMA inspectors to assess damage if they do not have insurance. FEMA is only one of several agencies that administer disaster assistance, and figuring out who is eligible for what kind of aid often is as confusing and overwhelming as the disaster itself. For instance, the Agriculture Department has more than a dozen disaster assistance programs ranging from crop insurance to farm emergency loans; HUD provides housing vouchers to displaced individuals and community development block grants to states; and the Small Business Administration hands out business, housing and property disaster loans. FEMA offers various types of aid, most notably through its Individuals and Households assistance program.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.