Harlem Rep Espaillat And Others Intro Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act

May 13, 2020

Today, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Mark Takano, and Rep. Yvette D. Clarke introduced the Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act.

The Act will make non-congregate sheltering expenses automatically eligible for full FEMA funding reimbursement under their Public Assistance funding during the current public health emergency.

“Safe housing for those in need is the cornerstone to a comprehensive, equitable response to the ongoing pandemic and will lead to reduced transmission of COVID-19 and economic hardship throughout our communities,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “As states and city agencies across the country work vigorously to provide vital shelter accommodations, we must signal that the federal government supports their efforts both in spirit and in practice. I am proud to introduce the Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act, which will extend reimbursement eligibility to non-congregate shelters, and ensure states and municipalities have the resources to serve our most vulnerable populations.”

“States and local governments around the country are stepping up and looking out for the most at-risk and vulnerable populations during this pandemic, they must be supported in their efforts to protect the public’s health and limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “By making non-congregate sheltering automatically eligible for full FEMA funding reimbursement, this legislation will support states’ efforts and incentivize other states and localities to invest in providing shelter to at-risk populations. We need a comprehensive all-of-government response to this pandemic, this includes reimbursing states and local governments for the costs they are incurring as they respond to this crisis. Thank you to my colleagues Rep. Clarke and Rep. Espaillat for joining me in this effort.”

“It’s critical that we set our communities up for success in combating COVID-19, which means providing access to sheltering for at-risk populations to properly distance and quarantine these individuals. It’s only fair to those who are putting their lives at risk for the sake of the greater good and are unable to go home to make sure that these frontline workers have a safe place to call home during this pandemic. These heroes are why I am cosponsoring the Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act, so we can provide resources like safe housing to help in this fight for our communities’ health while ensuring our most vulnerable populations are protected,” said Rep. Yvette D. Clarke.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, several states and local governments have started leasing hotel rooms to shelter at-risk populations. This includes sheltering for those experiencing homelessness, first responders, and healthcare workers that cannot go home to limit exposure for their families, as well as individuals that have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to quarantine for 14 days.

FEMA considers emergency sheltering in hotels, motels, dormitories and any other spaces with more privacy as “non-congregate sheltering.” However, under current policy, FEMA does not automatically provide funding for non-congregate sheltering and applicants, such as states and local governments, are required to get prior approval for the limited circumstances where this type of shelter is allowed in order to be reimbursed.

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Due to the unique nature of the current pandemic, non-congregate sheltering is necessary to slow the spread of the virus and protect the public’s health. Cities across the country are renting hotel rooms to shelter vulnerable populations, such as homeless individuals, in order to allow for effective social distancing and to limit the spread of the disease.

The Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act, modeled after California Governor Newsom’s Project Roomkey, would support the efforts of states and localities that are responding to this public health emergency by providing emergency shelter for at-risk populations, first responders, and healthcare workers by making non-congregate housing automatically eligible for FEMA funding reimbursement.

This legislation also ensures that applicants will be fully reimbursed for the expenses they incur by sheltering at-risk populations during this pandemic. Currently, FEMA only reimburses applicants for 75% of the eligible costs incurred while performing emergency protective measures under the Public Assistance program. By increasing the federal share to 100% for non-congregate sheltering, this legislation will help relieve many state and local government budgets that are burdened as they deploy all of their resources to respond to the pandemic.

The Coronavirus Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act would allow greater flexibility in the use of FEMA dollars for non-congregate sheltering. Specifically, it would:

  • Make non-congregate sheltering an automatically eligible cost for reimbursement under FEMA’s PA program for the duration of the public health emergency, for the housing of:
  1. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 that do not require hospitalization, but need isolation or quarantine (including those exiting from hospitals);
  2. 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;
  3. 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 non-congregate sheltering as a social distancing measure;
  4. First responders, healthcare workers, and emergency workers that do not require hospitalization but need isolation or quarantine (including those that are unable to go home as a precaution against exposing their families to COVID-19); and
  5. Individuals experiencing homelessness that have not been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19 but require emergency non-congregate sheltering to adhere to social distancing measures.
  • Increase the federal share for non-congregate sheltering to 100% to reimburse eligible states, territories, and tribal governments.

First elected to Congress in 2016, Rep. Adriano Espaillat is serving his second term in Congress where he serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Small Business Committee.

He serves as a Senior Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) where he also serves in a leadership role as CHC Whip. He is also chairman of the CHC Task Force for Transportation, Infrastructure and Housing. Rep. Espaillat’s Congressional District includes Harlem, East Harlem, northern Manhattan and the north-west Bronx. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

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