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PC News Herald: FEMA stands firm on Oct. 11 for tenants at Bay camps to find permanent housing

PANAMA CITY — For Cathy Coy, Oct. 11 is coming too soon. The date is the deadline for the 49-year-old and her fellow FEMA tenants in temporary housing units to find permanent housing.

“Hopefully, it all comes together and they do something (else). Otherwise, good luck getting me out of here,” Coy said, reaching down to pet her rescue dog Angel.

She is one of 224 tenants participating in the program, which was offered to Panhandle residents who lost their homes to Hurricane Michael. She has lived at the FEMA group site at the fairgrounds on 15th Street and Sherman Avenue in Panama City since it opened March last year.

As the new extended deadline looms ahead, like many others, Coy has been scrambling with social programs to find money to purchase the trailer, acquire land to put it on, and secure a homeowners insurance policy.

Still, on Oct. 11, the tenants will be expected to have secured permanent housing — that is, moved from or in the process of moving from the temporary housing units — despite a vote by the Panama City Commission last week to extend the deadline.

“We’ve already extended direct housing. The program is supposed to end after 18 months,” said FEMA Spokesman David Mace, noting the deadline was moved back by six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our goal right now is to meet our deadline of Oct. 11, to find these people ... a more permanent housing solution.”

Mace said of 925 households that participated in the temporary housing program as a result of the storm, 701 have found permanent housing and 224 are currently still living in temporary housing.

At last week’s meeting, Panama City commissioners voted to extend the city’s deadline that permits individuals to remain living in temporary housing, such as campers and RVs. The extension included people living at the FEMA group sites. However, according to Mace, that extension does not impact the federal government’s decision to keep the deadline in place at its sites.

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