From the New York Times.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration must immediately resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge said Wednesday, heaping more criticism on the government's handling of the 2005 disaster.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon's ruling sharply criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for illegally cutting housing funding and subjecting storm victims to a convoluted application process he called ''Kafkaesque.''
It is the second court victory for Katrina victims this week. A federal judge in Louisiana said Monday that many homeowners might be entitled to more insurance money for flood damage.
In the Washington case, Leon said FEMA mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program this spring and summer.
FEMA, which was criticized in the wake of the storm for responding too slowly, defended itself in a statement released Wednesday night. FEMA said it sent letters outlining the program changes, explaining why some people were ineligible and describing the appeal process.
Leon, however, said those letters contained only program codes and agency jargon and didn't explain anything. Some evacuees got multiple letters with conflicting information, he said, leaving families unable to understand why their aid was being cut.
Until FEMA explains itself and allows victims to appeal, Leon said the government must keep making housing payments.
''It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights,'' Leon wrote.