Another hotel extension for Louisiana, Miss. evacuees

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Hurricane evacuees living in more than 7,400 Louisiana or Mississippi hotel rooms at federal government expense are getting more time to move out.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said today it would extend its funding of the hotel program until March 15th in the two states, noting that housing stock in both remains depleted because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA said some the program will expire March first for evacuees living in about 3,0000 rooms outside of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Check-out time has been an ever-changing target for many of the evacuees in the hotel program. It had been slated to expire last fall, but FEMA extended it numerous times -- sometimes under orders from a federal judge in New Orleans.

A key to bringing the program to a close was a policy implemented in January requiring the hotel residents to register with FEMA by phone and obtain an authorization code that better enabled the agency to keep track of each evacuee and determine their eligibility for the program.

Those who did not obtain the code had their hotel funding cut off February seventh.

FEMA acting director David Paulison said the agency expects many will be able to move to other housing before the March 15th date.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)