Federal Judge Orders Extension of FEMA Hotel Program

Katrina evacuees won't have to leave their hotel rooms any time soon.

A federal judge in New Orleans says the Federal Emergency Management Agency can't end its hotel program for refugees until February7. That's a month later than FEMA had planned.

Judge Stanwood Duval's temporary restraining order came in a class action lawsuit filed in November by advocates for hurricane victims.

Attorneys pressing the lawsuit said FEMA should not be allowed to end the hotel program because it has failed to provide other housing aid, such as rental assistance checks, to many victims who qualify for it.

Also, the attorneys say information on how to apply for the aid has been slow to reach those who need it most.

FEMA continues to pick up the tab for an estimated 41,000 hotel rooms in Florida and 46 states and the District of Columbia at an estimated cost so far of about $350 million.

Howard Godnick, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, said the ruling will ease the burden on Katrina victims stuck in hotels and unable to find other housing.