Hundreds could be displaced again following TSA housing extension

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Those displaced by Hurricane Michael may be displaced again as a recent extension from FEMA to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program is cutting some housing opportunities short.

"We got the letter and saw the 60-day extension and obviously we were happy until we read down and did a deep dive on it and recognized that it's not quite the same program that they established in the beginning," said County Commissioner Philip "Griff" Griffits.

FEMA recently granted a 60-day extension to Bay County for those receiving TSA, which puts displaced residents in hotels or motels, but, "Out of 280 households that are in Bay County on this program, only 17 will qualify," said Griffits.

The deadline for the program is April 8 with a checkout day of April 9.

FEMA officials say the number of qualified homes may change. They say there are options for the potential hundreds that could be displaced.

Leo Skinner, a Media Relations Specialist with FEMA said, "We have many of those people who will move into different areas, some will go into HUD housing, some will be going into some of our parks that we've set up around the city, in either a travel trailer or mobile home."

But County and state officials, including Representative Neal Dunn, believe it's too much too soon.

Griffits added, "We find that unacceptable and we are appealing through the state to FEMA at their national headquarters to reconsider. This is wrong."

FEMA officials say those receiving TSA were aware of the April deadline and they've seen residents find housing.

"At one point we were housing over 2,000 households," said Skinner, "and now that number is down to 278, I believe."

In the meantime, the county says it will continue to help those displaced by the storm.

Griffits explained, "We are going to turn over every stone to try and help our citizens. This is just one of the many problems we're facing after Hurricane Michael."

FEMA officials say the households that do qualify have shown a documented permanent housing plan that will take place in the next 60 days.