Washington, DC - It is unconscionable for Congress to approve a half a trillion-dollar emergency spending bill without providing any funding to get and keep people stably housed during this public health emergency. Ensuring that everyone is stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a moral imperative – it is a public health necessity.
At least 1,800 people experiencing homelessness have already contracted coronavirus, and there are outbreaks of the disease in homeless shelters in California, Illinois, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and beyond. People who are homeless and contract coronavirus are twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die than others in the general public. This has enormous implications for people who are homeless, our health care systems, and our collective health. As long as anyone of us – and especially when hundreds of thousands of us – is without a home during this public health emergency, our country cannot truly contain the pandemic. The $4 billion included in the CARES Act to help address the tremendous challenges faced by homeless service providers was a good start, but far more resources are urgently needed.
Rent is due next week, and millions of the lowest-income renters can’t afford to pay. Some have short-term protection from federal, state and local eviction moratoriums but the patchwork of policies protects only some renters and creates confusion for all. Congress must assure each of us that we won’t lose our home in the midst of a pandemic by implementing a uniform, national moratorium on evictions. To prevent low-income renters from falling off a financial cliff when the moratoriums are lifted and to preserve our country’s affordable housing infrastructure, Congress must also provide at least $100 billion in rental assistance.
The urgent health and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness and millions of America’s lowest-income renters can’t wait. Leaving them out of this spending bill puts their lives at greater risk. Congress must immediately get back to work and invest in the solutions needed to safely and stably house the lowest-income people. Now more than ever, housing is health care.
About NLIHC: Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.