WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. ruled in favor of the Lawyers’ Committee’s clients by extending the January deadline for hurricane evacuees to remain in hotel rooms across the country. Today’s ruling will allow those displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to remain in hotels until February 7 or two weeks after they receive a notice regarding their application for assistance.
     “This ruling is critical for the close to 100,000 hurricane survivors who are now living in at least 37,000 hotel and motel rooms throughout the country,” said John Brittain, Chief Counsel of the Lawyers’ Committee.
     “African Americans made up a disproportionate high share of the hurricanes survivors. Many have little or no resources and those that remain in hotel rooms are in most need of assistance at this time,” added Brittain.
     In response to FEMA’s unjustified decision to force people out of hotels without alternative housing options, Judge Duval noted, “It is unimaginable what anxiety and misery these erratic and bizarre vacillations by FEMA have caused these victims, all of whom, for at least one point in time, had the very real fear of being without shelter for Christmas.”
     In addition, Judge Duval’s order requires FEMA to notify all displaced persons who were incorrectly told by the agency that they must apply for a SBA loan in order to obtain temporary housing assistance. Pursuant to the court order, FEMA must notify applicants and potential applicants that no such requirement exists and that no applications will be held up for Temporary Housing Assistance processing due to an SBA Loan application not being filled out, or being filled out incorrectly, unnecessarily, and/or superfluously.
     This decision by the district court is the first federal court decision against FEMA’s federal housing assistance program and is a significant landmark for all hurricane survivors.
     Today’s ruling was in response to a class action lawsuit filed in November by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights along with the New York law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; John Pierre, Attorney and Professor at Southern University Law Center; the Public Interest Law Project; and the Equal Justice Society.
     The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights legal organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to provide legal services to address racial discrimination.
     For more information on the Lawyers’ Committee, visit us at