Please note that NLIHC hosts weekly national calls on COVID-19 and housing/homelessness every Monday afternoon. The call is today (May 11) at 2:30pm to 4:00pm ET. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) will join the call to discuss their new bill, “The Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act.” NLIHC staff will share research on the need for $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, discuss the unique needs of marginalized populations, and hear field updates from our partners in New Hampshire, Illinois, and Indiana! Register for the call here: https://tinyurl.com/ru73qan
NLIHC is also maintaining a COVID-19/Housing and Homelessness News and Resource page here.
Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and 27 of her Senate colleagues sent a letter on April 7 urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to take the steps necessary to ensure people experiencing homelessness receive coronavirus relief payments.
Department of Health and Human Services
HHS’ Office of Minority Health announced on May 1 a competitive funding opportunity to provide up to $40 million for development and coordination of a network of national, state, territorial, tribal, and local organizations to deliver COVID-19-related information to racial and ethnic minority, rural and socially vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD announced on May 4 that the department has allocated $100,000 for HUD’s Foster Youth to Independence Initiative, noting that the pandemic has underscored the importance of having a home.
HUD announced on May 5 the allocation of $380 million in supplemental administrative fee funding to public housing authorities to fight COVID-19. Funds can be used for sanitation, transportation to health units and testing, food, childcare, and medical supplies.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced on May 1 that HUD will allocate $685 million in CARES Act funding to keep low-income residents of public housing safe during the pandemic. The funds will be allocated through the Public Housing Operating Fund and can be used for personal protective equipment, childcare costs, travel costs, and additional actions.
Department of Treasury
Treasury updated its “Coronavirus Relief Fund: Frequently Asked Questions” document on May 4. The new guidance permits state and local governments to use Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars on rental assistance to prevent evictions and homelessness.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt issued a joint statement on May 5 regarding the distribution of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars to Native American Tribes. According to the statement, $4.8 billion (60%) of the CRF, will be made available to Tribal governments based on population data, while “he remaining 40 percent of the $8 billion will be allocated “based on the total number of persons employed by the Indian tribe and any tribally owned entity, and further data to be collected related to the amount of higher expenses faced by the tribe in the fight against COVID-19.”
Department of Veterans Affairs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on May 6 that it has expanded support services enabled by the CARES Act to address the immediate needs of veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness due to the pandemic. Funding is provided for three VA programs: Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program, Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, and Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program.
Federal Housing Finance Administration
FHFA announced on May 5 that it has extended several loan origination flexibilities currently offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through June 30.
FHFA announced on May 4 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have developed online multifamily property lookup tools to help renters find out if they are protected from evictions during the pandemic.
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor discussed how the agency is adjusting to hurricane preparedness measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
FEMA announced approval of 30 states and the District of Columbia for its Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training program. Crisis Counseling, part of FEMA’s Individual Assistance programs, is a mental health assistance program that provides short-term interventions, intake, and referral services to support the mental health of disaster survivors.
The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition continues to advocate a broad array of resources and protections, including emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention assistance, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and emergency funds for homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing providers, among other recommendations. For more information, see DHRC’s full list of recommendations, which we continue to expand and refine.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities developed a framework that provides guidance for how homelessness systems can leverage the CARES Act and other funding sources to conduct emergency protective measures while also planning for recovery-oriented uses of these funds. All components of the “Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response: Responding to the Intersecting Crises of Homelessness and COVID-19” include a racial justice and equity lens.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Racial Equity Network updated its original racial equity tool in light of the pandemic. The tool is designed to help homelessness systems gather data to identify and address racial inequities in COVID-19 testing, treatment, and appropriate service delivery.
The Urban Institute outlined several steps to improve access to high-quality, systematic data to ensure that rural communities are not left behind after the pandemic. Existing data sources for rural communities are inadequate, making it difficult to know the true impacts of the pandemic on rural workers and economies.
Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, a founding member of the National Puerto Rican Agenda and member of the DHRC Puerto Rico Working Group, wrote an op-ed in The Hill urging the Senate to pass the Puerto Rico Earthquake Supplemental (H.R. 5687) or include it in the next coronavirus relief bill. The Earthquake Supplemental would provide $4.89 billion in emergency spending to fund a broad range of disaster recovery activities. Puerto Rico has been devastated by three consecutive disasters: Hurricane Maria, the 2020 earthquakes, and COVID-19.
Politico discussed the need for the federal government to develop a long-term plan to keep renters stably housed after the eviction moratoriums expire. Ignoring the looming rental crisis will cost more in the long run and keep millions of renters from safely sheltering in place.
HuffPost examined how cities across the country have started to move people experiencing homelessness from shelters into larger spaces and hotels. The article cited NLIHC’s “Getting to Yes” document in its discussion of how states can request funds from FEMA to reimburse hotel rooms.
According to an article in Nature, researchers have discovered that coronavirus outbreaks in shelters are spreading below the radar. Researchers are collecting data on the prevalence of COVID-19 and modeling its spread under different group living situations, hoping that this will guide policies to protect people residing in congregate living settings.
The Sightline Institute outlined six bills that Democrats have proposed to protect renters and workers in the next stimulus package, including the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act” and the “Emergency Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act.”
The Baltimore Sun editorial board examined why federal solutions to the housing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic must include assistance for both tenants and landlords.
An article in the Washington Post explored how the pandemic has demonstrated the need to treat housing as human right, not a commodity. Governments are responding by enacting measures like eviction moratoriums, rent caps, and assistance for people experiencing homelessness. While these measures are steps in the right direction, structural reforms are required to build a more just housing environment.
A Human Rights Watch article discusses how the measures that some governments have taken to acquire housing for people experiencing homelessness demonstrate what can be achieved through political will, resources, and a focus on both individual worth and collective good. These steps pave the way for longer-term solutions to eradicating homelessness.
The pandemic has revealed how easy it is to fall from the middle class and into poverty, according to a Washington Post article. For years, economists and advocates have warned that many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and that even a slight downturn could devastate many lives.
Forbes discussed the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act” introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and its companion bill in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Denny Heck (D-WA).
E&E News examined the impact that a natural disaster would have on people experiencing homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic. “An extreme weather event will affect [the homeless] in a much more impactful way than the population at large, and this year is going to be even worse with COVID-19,” said Eric Samuels, executive director of the Texas Homeless Network, an NLIHC state partner.
Nonprofit affordable housing providers are committed not to evict their tenants, but they are hoping that relief comes soon to help their organizations and their tenants.
Next City examined how community-driven development rooted in collaboration can ensure an equitable and inclusive recovery from COVID-19.
The Washington Post examined the traumatic experiences that people experiencing homelessness in New York City face amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Politico explored the pandemic’s potential impact on the racial wealth gap, highlighting racial disparities in homeownership. The article also discussed proposals from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to include billions of dollars in rental assistance in the next relief package.
A group of Native American tribes is suing the Treasury Department for failing to distribute $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief that was allocated for tribes in the CARES Act. The Treasury Department missed its April 26 deadline to distribute the funds 30 days after the CARES Act passed.
Many landlords are bracing for a wave of non-payments due to the pandemic.
Vox explored the impact of the coronavirus on rural America, discussing the uptick of outbreaks in certain areas and the factors that place rural communities at risk.
State and Local News
NLIHC’s list of local eviction and foreclosure moratoriums is available here
NLIHC’s list of state and local emergency rental assistance programs is available here
NLIHC’s list of local shelter closings is available here
The Alabama Department of Public Health expanded coronavirus testing criteria to include certain asymptomatic, high-risk groups and individuals. The expanded criteria include people without symptoms who are residents of congregate housing settings, such as homeless shelters.
Eighteen people in the Flagstaff Shelter Service have tested positive for the coronavirus, including two staff members. The shelter has been serving 40 to 65 people in their main location and another 75 people who were placed in motels using funds provided by the city.
Arkansas nonprofits and community members have partnered to provide rental assistance to low-income renters impacted by the pandemic. Seven nonprofits have created a donation website and a housing assistance hotline to prevent families from becoming homeless.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed faces growing criticism from city officials and advocates for not doing enough to move people experiencing homelessness into hotel rooms. While more than 1,000 people have been moved into hotel rooms, approximately 1,700 hotel rooms remain vacant.
Landlords in the Bay Area are still beginning the eviction process and threatening to remove tenants despite California’s eviction moratorium. After a tenant who lost employment as an onsite property manager was threatened with eviction, the city of Alameda issued a press statement reiterating that state and local laws prohibit evictions during COVID-19.
Tenant and landlord groups across the Bay Area are urging federal and state officials to provide billions of dollars in rental assistance to prevent a wave of evictions and widespread housing insecurity. Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, an NLIHC state partner, highlighted the need for a bold federal aid package to address the needs of low-income tenants and future housing development.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that over the weekend that LA County officials have acquired an additional 505 motel rooms for people experiencing homelessness, bringing the total number of rooms to 2,711.
Two San Diego activists, with support from the community, have raised over $30,000 for Hotel Vouchers 4 All. They have acquired housing for 70 people experiencing homelessness and provided 30 additional individuals with critical services.
Homeless activists in Los Angeles are urging Mayor Eric Garcetti to use emergency powers to commandeer hotels and motels to provide much needed shelter for people experiencing homelessness amid the pandemic.
The Denver Department of Public Works cleaned several homeless encampments on May 7. City crews moved the belongings of people staying in the encampments into a nearby parking lot, picked up trash, and power washed the sidewalk. The city allowed people to return to the areas because of the CDC’s guidance to refrain from sweeping encampments during the pandemic.
Colorado awarded a total of $3 million to 20 organizations to provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance for low-income families. Nonprofits across the state expect the funds to be spent quickly. Governor Jared Polis established the $3 million fund in a March 20 executive order to ensure that Colorado residents did not lose housing due to the pandemic.
COVID-19 has created opportunities for novel legal strategies to challenge cities and states in ensuring that all residents have access to safe housing. An attorney representing advocacy groups and two people experiencing homelessness argues that Colorado should provide safe housing for people experiencing homelessness, citing the existence of an equal protection violation since housed residents are better able to obey the state’s stay-at-home order.
The City of Miami Emergency Rental and Utilities Assistance Program will provide one-month rental and utility assistance to low-income residents who have lost jobs due to the pandemic. The program began accepting applications on May 4.
Homeless shelters in Florida have adjusted operations amid the pandemic, including imposing social distancing measures, increasing food outreach, and limiting new intakes in certain cases.
Housing Action Illinois, an NLIHC state partner, released a blog post discussing the importance of how advocates frame requests for additional affordable housing and homelessness resources during the pandemic. The post includes messaging that members, partners, and allies may find helpful to adopt or adapt.
Chicago advocates are working to ensure that housing and homelessness are prioritized in the city and state’s response to COVID-19 but are frustrated by the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) slow response. Reports from the CHA show that there are 372 vacant public housing units ready for immediate occupancy and an additional 797 units that have recently become vacant.
Organizations in McHenry County are working to protect people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, making adjustments to their operations to adhere to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and orders from the governor.
Prosperity Indiana, an NLIHC state partner, and key collaborators have formed the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition to advocate housing policy solutions that ensure an equitable response and recovery to the pandemic. The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is focusing its efforts on recommendations for short-term emergency rental assistance and homelessness prevention.
A group of 17 Indiana housing providers and advocacy groups sent a letter to Senator Todd Young (R-IN) urging him to support $100 billion in emergency rental assistance in the next coronavirus relief package.
Adrienne Bush, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, an NLIHC state partner, discussed the critical need for emergency rental assistance to keep renters stably housed. “If Kentucky is going to come out of this COVID-19 state of emergency stronger,” Bush said, “renter’s protection and rental relief have to be a critical part of the equation,.”
The Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky (HHCK), an NLIHC state partner, has worked to help people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless during the pandemic. With a grant from NLIHC, HHCK started an Eviction Prevention Fund and is currently accepting donations.
A program will be extended to provide hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness at an encampment in New Orleans. Nearly 200 people have been housed in two hotels since state and city officials began the 30-day hotel program after discovering a rodent infestation at the New Orleans encampment.
The director of the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, Jerrianne Anthony, has been placed on extended personal leave and the office’s deputy director is no longer a city employee. The office’s chief of staff has resigned, effective later this month. A spokesman for Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young did not provide a reason for these personnel changes.
More people experiencing homelessness have been moved from a Kalamazoo shelter into hotel rooms. Approximately 150 people are occupying 105 rooms at the hotel. While the hotel program is only for people not showing any symptoms of the coronavirus, Kalamazoo County has created a separate quarantine location for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or who are symptomatic.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the state received approval from FEMA to provide housing alternatives, including hotels and motels, for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
A caterer from Ann Arbor, Stacy Williams, has been delivering meals to frontline medical staff at Michigan Medicine and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals. Williams has also teamed up with Pastor Vicky Lovell to provide food to people experiencing homelessness at four sites providing 24-hour shelter.
The director of the Olmstead County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) announced that it will focus on developing a housing strategy to find permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. The HRA has been working with local hotels to house veteran, families, and people at high-risk of severe illness.
Ramsey County allocated up to $1.8 million on March 17 to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 at local homeless shelters. The county and local nonprofits have partnered to acquire 60 hotel rooms and three meals a day for seniors experiencing homelessness and are working to acquire additional hotel rooms.
Hennepin County and Minnesota health officials have been working to protect people experiencing homelessness by acquiring local hotel rooms for temporary shelter. The effort has reduced crowding by more than 50% at Hennepin County’s largest shelters. The county has spent $4.3 million on the relocation efforts and projects monthly ongoing costs of $1.6 million to continue the program.
More than 300 physicians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and social workers signed a petition urging state and local officials to address the immediate survival needs of people experiencing homelessness. Read the Star Tribune op-ed here.
After issuing an executive order on March 25 prohibiting law enforcement from clearing encampments, Governor Tim Walz reversed his position on April 29. Emergency Executive Order 20-47 allows homeless encampments to be swept if they pose health and safety risks.
Governor Mike Parson highlighted the housing assistance available to Missourians during the pandemic. The state will use Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grants to help meet the housing needs of Missouri residents.
St. Louis officials cleared an encampment with approximately 100 tents over the last several days. Although a lawsuit was filed to stop the city from sweeping the encampment, a federal judge denied the request.
Montana established an emergency rental assistance program to provide rent, security deposits, mortgage payments, and hazard insurance assistance for residents who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic. The $50 million program is funded through the state’s allocation of the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The number of people at a joint city-county isolation and quarantine complex in Las Vegas, which houses people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed, tripled in just two days. The “ISO-Q” complex has been open since April 13 and has served approximately 133 people experiencing homelessness.
New Hampshire is spending $3 million in federal funding to help people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The money will be used to provide stipends for homeless shelter staff, cover additional shelter expenses, and support agencies helping people find permanent housing.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig announced new measures on April 30 to protect people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, including a city-sanctioned temporary camp. City officials have provided portable toilets and sinks and have started delivering meals to an encampment. In a letter to the community, the mayor emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships to expand services for people experiencing homelessness in Manchester and across New Hampshire.
Union City passed a measure prohibiting evictions of residential or commercial tenants during its state of emergency, including for nonpayment of rent. Union City’s legislation creates a moratorium on all evictions whether the property is mortgaged or owned by the landlord.
Jersey City Council unanimously passed an ordinance (Ordinance No. 20-036) that prohibits any rent increase and any penalty for late rent payments until August 1 in all rent controlled and non-owner occupied 1-4 unit dwellings.
Newark started testing people experiencing homelessness for the coronavirus on May 4. The testing occurs at an airport hotel acquired by the city last month to provide housing for Newark residents experiencing homelessness. The city has accommodations to quarantine anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus.
The city of Passaic is increasing efforts to test people experiencing homelessness for the coronavirus, including opening a testing site at its North Hudson Community Center. The city recently opened Dignity House, a resource center for people experiencing homelessness.
Advocacy groups and shelter providers in New Jersey are preparing for increased demand for their services once the state reopens and the eviction moratorium is lifted. Over the last month in Morris County, there has been a 30% increase to the coordinated entry list for shelters.
The New York Police Department deployed 1000 police officers to remove people experiencing homelessness from the city’s subway system as train cars and platforms are disinfected. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the subway shutdown to clean the trains offers an opportunity to engage with people experiencing homelessness who have been using the subway as shelter.
Letters from FEMA reveal that the de Blasio administration received federal approval in late March to acquire hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness, raising questions about the city’s recent announcement that it needs more time to acquire a method of reimbursement to expand its hotel program.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is opposing legislation introduced by the city council that would offer people experiencing homelessness the option to stay in vacant private hotel rooms across the city. While de Blasio’s administration argues that the city does not have the funds to afford this, FEMA would likely cover the cost of the program.
Wake County commissioners approved $2 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to prevent evictions and homelessness, but the county is asking to use more of its $5 million share for housing.
Cleveland launched three new relief programs to assist residents facing unemployment or eviction due to the pandemic. $11.3 million out of the $18 million in aid will be spent on rental assistance.
Chair of the Multnomah County Commission Deborah Kafoury expressed support for including $100 billion in rent assistance in the next federal relief package: “The rent crisis in our county requires the kind of national response that only the federal government can and should provide.”
Pennsylvania released new guidance for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, including a temporary suspension on evictions and foreclosures. The Department of Human Services is establishing a Sheltering Taskforce to provide services to people who are unable to self-isolate. Rental assistance is available through the Housing Assistance Program, and the Department of Community and Economic Development plans to issue multiple Emergency Solution Grants.
Governor Gina Raimondo announced that her administration is seeking permission to use $5.1 million in federal Medicaid funds to pay for food, rent, and mobile phones for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
Health officials announced that 119 people experiencing homelessness who were staying at the Nashville fairgrounds and the Nashville Rescue Mission had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Rental assistance programs in Texas are unable to meet the overwhelming demand for financial assistance needed to prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness. Most Texas cities do not offer this support, and for the cities that do, the money is quickly running out.
The Houston City Council approved a proposal introduced by Mayor Sylvester Turner to allocate $15 million for emergency rental assistance. The program will use federal relief funding and will be managed by a local nonprofit. At least 6,818 Houston residents are expected to benefit.
Housing advocates in Texas are concerned about a potential surge of evictions and homelessness after the state moratorium on evictions is lifted. While the statewide moratorium halts trials, hearings, and eviction procedures, it does not suspend payments or late fees.
The city of Dallas began accepting applications for rental and mortgage assistance through an online portal on May 4. Due to high volume, however, many people reported difficulties in accessing the online rental and mortgage assistance website.
Chow Train, a food truck and nonprofit founded in 2011, has cooked nearly 45,000 meals for people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio.
Utah advocates expanded efforts to test people experiencing homelessness, low-income renters, and Latino community members for the coronavirus. The Midtown Community Health Center, which operates clinics and shelters, pre-screens individuals before they enter the shelter and has begun drive-through testing.
The threat of COVID-19 has led local leaders in Western Washington to take drastic actions to address homelessness. Seattle and King County have moved people experiencing homelessness into hotels, installed hygiene stations, and prohibited encampment sweeps. Advocates hope this new approach will continue even after the acute crisis has passed.
Across West Virginia, advocates are mobilizing to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness amid the pandemic. The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, an NLIHC state partner, has been leading efforts to ensure that shelters have the supplies needed to protect residents and keep people living in encampments safe. Advocates hope the pandemic will shine a light on the state’s homelessness crisis and encourage communities to pursue long-term solutions.
Department of Agriculture
Department of Housing and Urban Development
CDBG-DR COVID-19 Fact Sheet - Updated May 4, 2020
Department of Labor
Department of Treasury
Coronavirus Relief Fund - Frequently Asked Questions - Updated May 4, 2020
Fact Sheet: How to Appeal FEMA’s Decision on Eligibility - May 7, 2020
Fact Sheet: Federal Support to Expand National Testing Capabilities - Updated May 6, 2020
COVID-19: FEMA Assistance for Tribal Governments - May 1, 2020
New State and Local Partner Resources
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- Guidance on Proper Grouping (Cohorting) of Residents
- Guidance on Social Distancing and Bed Positioning for Residential and Congregate Settings
- Isolation Tracking Log
- Quarantine Tracking Log
Massachusetts Department of Public Health: COVID-19 and Homelessness: The Massachusetts Response