New Executive Order Addresses Urgent Health and Housing Needs of People Experiencing Homelessness

President Biden signed an executive order on January 21 that enables states and communities to address the urgent health and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, NLIHC and our national, state and local partners in the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) have urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the full costs of moving individuals experiencing homelessness and living in congregate settings or encampments to safer living spaces in hotels and motels. In a major win for homeless individuals, advocates, and state and local officials, President Biden has now directed FEMA to cover 100% of approved costs. This change will assist many jurisdictions currently struggling with non-congregate sheltering costs and actively save lives during the ongoing pandemic.

As a result of the national emergency declaration for COVID-19, FEMA activated its Public Assistance (PA) grant program to provide assistance to state, territorial, tribal, and local government entities and certain private non-profit organizations as they work quickly to respond to and recover from the pandemic. Over the past year, state and local governments have used PA funds, along with other federal and state funding streams, to move people experiencing homelessness – either in shelters or encampments – and others living in congregate settings into hotel rooms and other non-congregate shelters to safely isolate and quarantine. President Biden’s executive order directs FEMA to provide 100% reimbursement for the cost of approved non-congregate sheltering in hotel and motels across the country through September 2021, including for people experiencing homelessness and residents of congregate living facilities. The order specifically states that the provision of personal protective equipment and disinfecting supplies and services are included.

In addition to the increase in reimbursement, the order directs FEMA to expedite reimbursement of all eligible emergency work projects and provide an advance of the federal share on a percentage of the expected reimbursement from FEMA-approved projects. Finally, the order also requests that all National Guard forces be activated to fulfill COVID-19-related emergency assistance missions. The cost of activation will also be fully reimbursed by FEMA through the Public Assistance program until September 30, 2021.

Read the executive order at:

Learn more about FEMA’s Public Assistance program and non-congregate shelter best practices at:

Read the DRHC’s transition memo to the Biden administration at:

Sign up for our national and working group DHRC weekly calls at: