Evacuees hoping to preserve a government program providing hotel rooms to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina have their day in court on Friday, when a federal judge hears an array of complaints against the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In addition to hearing claims that Katrina victims face unfair and premature eviction from hotels, Judge Stanwood Duval will hear testimony and arguments that FEMA has wrongfully denied rental assistance to some evacuees.
"We plan on calling three victims, at least two of whom are about to be evicted from hotels," said Howard Godnick, an attorney for evacuees, who is seeking to make the lawsuit a class-action on behalf of all Katrina evacuees.
FEMA had set a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the hotel program but extended it to Dec. 15 after widespread criticism. In addition, 10 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas -- will be allowed to apply for extensions lasting until Jan. 7.
But, even after extensions, some could face homelessness if the hotel program ends, Godnick argues. FEMA officials contend that anyone properly registered with FEMA and eligible to receive fedral assistance will have the tools and the funding they need to get temporary housing.