Participating hotels are available throughout the country. In states outside of the hurricane area you need to pass under the watchful eye of the Red Cross.
However, in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, you can just pick any hotel and walk right in. No reservations are required. The CLC Hurricane Disaster Response Web site states:
Most hotels are participating. There is no need to contact the Red Cross directly to participate in this program.
How Do I Prove I'm a Victim?
You need to claim to be from a zip code that was affected by the disaster. CLC provides a handy list of Qualifying Zip Codes to choose from. It appears you can just make up a name and address. The Hotel Program FAQ advises hotel owners:
If the evacuee has no proof of residency, ask them to provide their zip code and verify that it is in an affected area.
It seems that you needn't worry about FEMA checking your identity too closely. The Hotel Billing Instructions show that the only information the hotel needs to provide to CLC is the name, city, state and zip code you gave at the front desk.
How Long Can I Stay?
Indefinitely! No limit has been set. And you can change hotels as often as you like. Or, as CLC phrases it:
Regardless of check-in date, any evacuee may stay 30 days from check in... After their initial 30 day stay, evacuees may stay until further notice.
I'm a Hotel Owner. How Do I Get Paid?
In advance! That's right you can fax in a form listing guest name and zip along with the room rate and the estimated length of stay. For each guest name, you can be reimbursed for future stays of up to 14 days at a time. And conveniently, there do not seem to be any posted upper limits on room rates.
What If The Guest Leaves Early, And FEMA Has Already Overpaid The Hotel?
No problem. CLC suggests to the hotel owner:
...You can mail a check and the guest's name, dates of stay and room number to Corporate Lodging Consultants, 3110 E. 32nd Street North, Wichita, KS 67226
Imagine how many reimbursement checks that busy accounts receivable staff in Wichita must be processing.
How Many Evacuees are in Hotels?
The New York Times reported:
The Red Cross and federal government said Tuesday that they had been significantly overreporting the number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in hotels. Instead of 600,000 people, 200,000 remain in hotels, the charity said.
Although the lower number means that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and cities receiving evacuees will find new housing for far fewer people, the count shows the lack of knowledge that FEMA has about the relocations and its limited oversight over the money it is committed to spend on such housing.
"FEMA still does not know any more about what it was doing last week than it was a month ago," Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said. "It is still, as far as I am concerned, an incompetent agency."
The New York Times includes this reassuring statement:
Neither the Red Cross nor the government monitors who stays in the hotels, Red Cross officials said.
Just how much is Corporate Lodging Consultants being paid to give away the government's money with seemingly no controls? FEMA appears to remain an extremely costly embarrassment.
Cross-posted at ePluribus Media.