Displaced Sandy families face hotel 'checkout'

Lea Kalodes has spent weeks living in this

Lea Kalodes has spent weeks living in this hotel room at the Best Western in Rockville Centre with her 19-month-old son because her home suffered extensive damage during superstorm Sandy. (Jan. 10 2013) (Credit: Johnny Milano)

Nearly 1,000 Long Island households displaced by superstorm Sandy are waiting to find out whether their federal funding for hotel rooms will be extended beyond Sunday.

That's the current "checkout date" for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's transitional sheltering assistance program, a spokesman for the agency said. However, the spokesman, John Mills, said Thursday that a decision about whether to extend the program could be made by the end of the day Friday.

Roughly 970 Long Island households -- individuals or entire families -- are staying in hotel rooms funded by the program, Mills said. Statewide, the program currently funds hotel rooms for about 2,360 households, he said. The program began Nov. 3, with an original checkout date of Nov. 17. FEMA said on Nov. 16 the program would be extended for 30 days. Another extension was granted Dec. 14, Mills said.


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The deadline does not affect a separate program that provides grants of up to $31,900 to pay for a combination of home repairs and up to 18 months of rental housing, he said.

The continuing uncertainty about hotel funding has added to the stress of being displaced, said Lea Kalodes, who has been living with her 19-month-old son and her parents at the Best Western in Rockville Centre since Dec. 7. Sandy sent 5 feet of water into the family's East Rockaway home, which needs extensive repairs, she said.

Kalodes, 31, said she does not know where the family will go if they lose hotel funding. All the available rental apartments are in eastern Suffolk County, which would make it difficult for her toddler and her father, a disabled Vietnam veteran, to make it to their medical appointments, and for her mother to commute to work in Bethpage.

Kalodes said her son, who was born with a cleft palate, is supposed to have mouth surgery soon, but the procedure cannot be scheduled while the family is waiting to find out whether they will be able to stay in the hotel. The family also needs to be living in Nassau County in order for the toddler's physical and speech therapists to see him for his four-times-a-week appointments, since the therapists are only allowed to work in Nassau County, Kalodes said.

The hotel is filled with people displaced by Sandy, many of them elderly or disabled, and they would be devastated if they lose federal hotel funding on Sunday, she said.

"Nobody has any place to go," she said. "If we get booted, we're all going to be out in the street."

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