The Senate has approved $3.5 billion for rental vouchers that could be used by an estimated 350,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina to pay for housing anywhere in the United States.There would be no income limits on the temporary housing voucher program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And it would cover rents of up to 150% of HUD's area payment standard for one year. Once a family member returns to work, they would contribute 30% of their income toward rental payments, as in the regular housing voucher program. "These temporary rental vouchers would quickly and efficiently move families into stable housing across the country in the communities to which they have been relocated," said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who sponsored the amendment. The Senate approved the Sarbanes amendment by unanimous vote and attached it to the Commerce/Justice appropriations bill. The House has not passed a similar provision. It is unclear whether the Bush administration will support the concept of temporary vouchers, but there is much concern about crowding too many families into temporary trailer parks. Meanwhile, HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are using vacant public housing and federally subsidized apartments to house Katrina victims, as well as cruise ships.

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