By Wally Kennedy and Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
With a Nov. 9 deadline looming for residents to leave FEMA’s temporary housing, Tuesday’s extension of that deadline to June 9 of next year was the news that Carla Simpson had been hoping to hear.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It gives me more time to find a job and a place to live. I was really getting worried about where I was going to go.”
Simpson, who has lived in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer south of the Joplin Regional Airport since August of last year, had a job doing debris removal in Joplin, but it ended in late July. She is doing job searches now and filling out rental applications, but she cannot afford to move without first having a job.
“That’s why I’m so glad we got the extension,” she said. She lost her home near Joplin High School in the May 22, 2011, tornado.
Rebecca Sherman, her husband and their four children had lived at 20th Street and Moffet Avenue before the tornado. They, too, have lived in temporary housing since August of last year.
“This extension is a good thing for us because we have been looking for a place to rent, but the rent has been too high,” she said. “Our income is too low. We’re the last trailer in our area. I just hope we’re not the last ones out here.”
FEMA has approved the city’s request to extend the deadline for those displaced by the tornado an additional seven months, to June 9, 2013, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
There are 166 families living in the FEMA temporary housing. The number had reached 586 families after the tornado; 420 families have found houses or apartments in which to live.
The Joplin City Council approved making the request in an 8-1 vote last month. Councilman Bill Scearce voted against asking for the extension.
City Planner Troy Bolander made the case to the City Council, saying the extension request was based on city projections that enough affordable housing would be built by June to accommodate those who have not yet been able to find permanent housing.
He said caseworkers indicated that 99 more families would be able to relocate soon, but that 67 other families need affordable housing that is now being built.
“It just goes to how cooperation between local, state and federal agencies has to be done,” Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said by phone on Tuesday. She said that despite the housing that has been built, Joplin housing is not where it was before the tornado.
“We realize there are still people who have no place to go,” she said. “This just gives them a little extra time.”
FEMA has the authority, beginning next month, to begin charging families rent based on income, the mayor said.
City Manager Mark Rohr welcomed the news in a statement he emailed to the Globe.
“I was pleased with their decision to grant the extension,” Rohr said. “It is a practical matter, as we have individuals that still need assistance.”
The request had the support of McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon. McCaskill, in a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, urged the agency to extend its contract to provide temporary housing with the city.
“These resources are another important step in ensuring the Joplin community has the tools they need to rebuild,” McCaskill said in the news release. “I continue to be amazed by this community’s resiliency and I’m determined to keep fighting to ensure they have the resources necessary to rebuild their homes and businesses and build an even stronger Joplin.”
THE TOTAL AMOUNT of federal resources that have been provided for tornado recovery in Joplin exceeds $250 million, according to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.