LOS ANGELES — Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Paul Krekorian introduced a motion today to formally request through the California Office of Emergency Services an advance of $150,000,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide 10,000 hotel rooms to house people experiencing homelessness for the next 6 months.
“We recognize the difficult position we are in as a city, facing a budget shortfall while needing money to shelter our unhoused population and keep them safe from COVID,” said Council President Martinez. “We are looking for all solutions to find this money and we are hopeful that through the California Office of Emergency Services we will be able to front fund and provide 10,000 hotel rooms. While we recognize the demand is larger than this, we hope that this is one of many options we can create to help those experiencing homelessness at this time.”
On January 21, President Joe Biden issued an executive order saying that FEMA will reimburse municipalities 100% of what they spend to house people in non-congregate shelters until the end of September. FEMA generally receives and processes requests directly from the states. In California, during major emergencies, the California Office of Emergency Services coordinates with local agencies to determine needs, and in turn requests assistance from the FEMA.
"The Biden Administration's shift to a 100% FEMA reimbursement to local governments for sheltering those at greatest risk from COVID-19 presents Los Angeles with an extraordinary opportunity," said Councilmember Krekorian. "We must act urgently but also effectively to secure the financial resources necessary to get thousands of people experiencing homelessness into safe, secure environments during the pandemic, and to ensure that this is the first step on a path to permanent housing."
The City is facing a budget shortfall of over $700 million this year and does not have money in the General Fund to provide the initial funding necessary to execute contracts with hotels that would be later reimbursed by FEMA. Local governments and agencies, including the City of Los Angeles, are already owed hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA reimbursements. As the pandemic continues, that number will increase.
Along with asking for the $150,000,000 advance request, the motion calls for a report on potential funding sources to increase the utilization of Project Roomkey that would be FEMA-reimbursement eligible. Federal funds such as the Coronavirus Relief funds are not eligible for FEMA reimbursement. The motion also calls for a report on whether the American Recovery Plan legislation would allow the city to spend funds on FEMA-reimbursable expenses as well.