Rita Evacuees Having Problems Getting Aid

9-28-05 - It has been three days since Hurricane Rita made landfall, but some people from parts of Texas and Louisiana have been away from their homes for longer than that.

They evacuated their homes before the storm actually hit, and while some have gone home, others are finding out they may not have a home to go to.

In the meantime they are in motels or in shelters waiting on word and waiting on financial assistance.

Three days after the storm, people displaced by Hurricane Rita are entitled to food, shelter and medical care. They are offered a spot in a local shelter, warm meals and even clothing. But the comparisons to Katrina are already being made.

Reginald Delore lives in Lake Charles, La., also known as ground zero. It was one of the areas devastated by Rita.

He evacuated with nine other family members to a motel in Ardmore. He doesn't want to go to a shelter, but he does want money to help pay living expenses until he can get back to Louisiana.

Right now all he can do it wait. A team of volunteers are assessing the disaster areas trying to determine the kind of damage assistance that will be offered by the end of the week.

In Texas, it's a similar story. Officials are still trying to figure out exactly who is eligible for disaster aid. At the Texas Department of Human Services, food stamps are in high demand, but in some cases, Rita evacuees are being turned away.

Three days after Katrina, the restrictions to receive food stamps were relaxed. If you needed stamps, you got them. Thus far there is no special treatment for Rita evacuees.

Federal dollars fund food stamps, and the Texas Health and Human Services commission filed a request for a waiver with the federal government Tuesday. If that waiver is granted, more evacuees will get food stamps even it they didn't qualify before the storm.

Also, once disaster assessment is completed on the ground, there is a chance more Rita evacuees will get financial aid from different agencies like the Red Cross and FEMA. But that could take at least a few more days.

Anyone who thinks they might need help can call 211 in Texas. If you are in Southern Oklahoma, you can call 580-223-6313 to get in touch with the Red Cross.