FEMA Reimbursement and Additional Details on Homelessness Efforts
Today, the California Department of Social Services, the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency, and CalOES shared additional details and guidance on the efforts to provide safe non-congregate shelter options for homeless individuals impacted by COVID-19 in hotels, motels, and trailers, now being called Project Roomkey. Significantly, the state has received first in the nation approval from FEMA for Category B non-congregate sheltering reimbursement for hotel/motel leasing efforts to house unsheltered homeless individuals (75% federal share of costs). The Administration hosted a call this afternoon to walk through these details and answer questions from counties and have also shared the attached Project Roomkey FEMA Approval Letter and Project Roomkey Fact Sheet.
The approval letter outlines that FEMA will reimburse costs for three specific populations:
• Individuals who test positive for COVID-19
that do not require hospitalization, but need isolation or
quarantine (including those exiting from hospitals);
• Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 (as documented by a state or local public health official, or medical health professional) that do not require hospitalization, but need isolation or quarantine; and
• Individuals who are asymptomatic, but are at “high-risk,” such as people over 65 or who have certain underlying health conditions (respiratory, compromised immunities, chronic disease), and who require Emergency NCS as a social distancing measure.
Costs that are eligible for reimbursement include basic services necessary for the safe operation of these facilities. On the call, state leaders clarified that this would include food, security, transportation, laundry and cleaning. The letter indicates that case management, mental health services, and other similar services are not eligible for this reimbursement. The State has indicated that they are working on other avenues to secure some federal reimbursement for these costs.
In order to secure reimbursement, counties must take specific steps. These include detailed tracking of who is being sheltered, documentation of who is COVID positive, and documentation of high-risk populations. The FEMA approval covers costs for sheltering individuals through April 30, though CalOES has indicated they are already moving forward on seeking an extension.
On the call, the state outlined that counties are to serve as the lead in securing agreements with hotels and motels, but that the state is there to support these efforts as needed. The Project Roomkey Fact Sheet contains information about how counties should coordinate with local partners and use available resources, how counties can request technical assistance from the state, and guidance on how local communities can prioritize isolation for individuals experiencing homelessness. For prioritization, the state has shared two specific resources that were developed in partnership with Margot Kushel, MD and the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. These two resources are Recommended Strategic Approaches for COVID-19 Response for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness and a Flow Chart: COVID-19 Recommended Protocol for People Experiencing Homelessness. The state has also indicated that they are finalizing an updated template lease agreement for counties to use that has been reviewed by the federal government, state, and hotel associations.
CSAC has been working closely with all of the state agencies on this effort and is pleased that the state was able to secure FEMA approval for federal disaster reimbursement. As counties continue to move forward on these efforts, we will continue to closely coordinate and secure answers to questions that counties have during implementation.