The U.S. government must extend its Dec. 1 deadline to stop paying hotel bills for many victims of Hurricane Katrina and come up with a proper plan for people to return home, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Saturday.
The Democratic human rights activist, a fierce critic of the federal response to the hurricanes, told Reuters that eviction orders must be based on needs rather than on a government deadline.
“It would be disgraceful to cut funding off (for) housing without a plan for people to go someplace,” he said. “They were victims of a hurricane, through no fault of their own... They are exiled in 41 states and living in injurious circumstances. There should be a plan for them to return home.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the coordinator of Washington’s relief efforts, said Wednesday that it would stop paying for hotels for many refugees, who are scattered across the country, starting Dec. 1. The deadline prompted outrage from people who will have to look for new housing during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Some states exempt from deadline
The rules, which FEMA says only confirm a previously announced deadline, will not apply to hurricane victims still living in the worst-hit states of Louisiana and Mississippi, because alternative housing is simply not available, FEMA said.
Jackson said the administration could house some evacuees in disused military bases in the New Orleans area, allowing them to be close to their homes and close to the reconstruction jobs that are opening up across the devastated city.
“This is a radical dislocation,” he said. “These are people who want to work. The government must not grow impatient with their misery.”
In an open letter to President Bush, Jackson said the eviction order was not the “help” the president promised in the days after the catastrophe, which flooded much of low-lying New Orleans and forced residents to flee.
“This latest action by FEMA will leave thousands of displaced families homeless,” he said. “It will make a disaster out of the disaster relief efforts.”