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Bill to Increase Amount of FEMA Funding for COVID-19 and 2020 Disasters Passes House

The FEMA Assistance Relief Act of 2020 (H.R. 8266), sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on November 17. The bill would direct FEMA to increase funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as some nonprofits, through its Public Assistance (PA) Program by significantly reducing the cost-share requirements of governments and nonprofits. NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) is urging Congress to quickly enact this bill.

The PA program reimburses governments and some nonprofits for eligible “emergency protective measures,” including emergency sheltering, first responder expenses, and medical triage. The program is currently active in areas impacted by recent disasters, such as the Gulf Coast, California, and Oregon, as well as for COVID-19-related work nationwide. The program typically reimburses 75% of the overall cost of an eligible activity, leaving governments and nonprofits to cover the remaining 25%. The bill would raise the reimbursement level to 90% for all 2020 disasters and 100% for COVID-19 related costs. The legislation would also clarify that activities such as sheltering, rehousing, and food distribution would be eligible for reimbursement under the program.

The FEMA PA Program has been utilized by state, local, and non-profit organizations to move individuals experiencing homelessness that have been exposed to COVID-19 or are medically at-risk into hotel rooms and other non-congregate shelters to quarantine. Given heavy usage and strain on the current shelter system, the program has allowed many areas experiencing COVID-19 spikes to slow the spread of the disease among individuals experiencing homelessness. However, many state and local budgets have been substantially impacted by the pandemic, and some areas of the country have not been able to utilize this tool, as elected officials and policy makers were unable to pay 25% of the cost required to receive FEMA reimbursement. If passed by the Senate, this bill would allow more state and local governments to implement the program and ensure that hotel rooms can be used to slow the spread of COVID within their shelter system. The Senate version of the bill (S. 4627) is sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and will be considered by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Read the text of the FEMA Assistance Relief Act at: https://bit.ly/3nxXEHV

Read NLIHC’s best practices document on FEMA and non-congregate sheltering at: https://bit.ly/3lErmKJ