Disaster Recovery and Disability Rights Advocates Call on FEMA to Expand Access to Non-congregate Sheltering Reimbursements

The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) and a group of disability rights advocates sent a letter to FEMA Acting Administrator Robert Fenton calling on the agency to issue guidance expanding access to Public Assistance (PA)-funded reimbursements for non-congregate sheltering in hotel rooms, ensuring that all individuals experiencing homelessness and residents of congregate care facilities can access safe shelter as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Specifically, the letter requests that FEMA clarify how organizations can access the up-front funding for non-congregate sheltering approved by President Biden’s January 21 Executive Order, issue guidance stating that all residents of congregate care facilities and individuals experiencing homelessness can have their hotel stays reimbursed, ensure that supportive services and case management needed for individuals with disabilities to fully access non-congregate sheltering are reimbursable, and allow homeless service providers and centers for independent living to be directly reimbursed by FEMA through the PA program.

The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition includes more than 850 local, state, and national organizations, including many organizations with first-hand experience recovering after disasters. The DHRC works to ensure a complete and equitable disaster housing recovery for all survivors of disasters, including those with the lowest incomes who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover. The DHRC was joined on the letter by the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), Alliance for Community Services, Atlantis Community, Inc., IMPACT Center for Independent Living, International Rescue Committee and Recovery Coalition (IRRC), Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living, and the World Institute on Disability. 

Non-congregate sheltering has the potential to save the lives of many congregate care facility residents, who account for 40% of all reported COVID-19-related deaths. This benefit is particularly important for facilities in communities of color, where systemic racism and discrimination have led to disproportionate impacts. People experiencing homelessness suffer from high rates of chronic diseases, mental health conditions, and other health conditions that place them at unique risk of death due to the virus. People experiencing homeless that 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.

While FEMA PA funds have been used to move some individuals experiencing homelessness to hotels and motels during the pandemic, unclear eligibility rules exclude many, leaving them at increased risk of illness and death. As stated in the letter’s conclusion, “ensuring that people experiencing homelessness and individuals with disabilities, whether they are institutionalized or are unhoused, can access these important assistance programs is a legal and ethical imperative.”

Read the letter to FEMA at: https://bit.ly/2OLBzto

Learn more about federal assistance during the pandemic at: https://bit.ly/3qGiu95