SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday authorized $150 million in emergency funding to protect homeless people in the state from the spread of COVID-19.
The aid will be provided by the state to local governments, who will then implement emergency protective measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus among California’s large homeless population, a particularly vulnerable group because they do not have the means to self-quarantine.
$100 million will go to local governments for shelter support and emergency housing, while the remaining $50 million will be for purchasing travel trailers and lease rooms in hotels, motels and other facilities to provide places for the homeless to self-isolate.
State officials on Tuesday announced they have leased rooms in two hotels near Oakland International Airport to house homeless during the coronavirus crisis.
State officials have identified 901 hotels around California that may be leased to provide housing for the homeless.
“People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19,” said Newsom in a statement.
“California is deploying massive resources to get these vulnerable residents safely into shelter, removing regulatory barriers and securing trailers and hotels to provide immediate housing options for those most at risk. Helping these residents is critical to protecting public health, flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
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Newsom also signed an executive order that gives local governments flexibility to spend their emergency homelessness funding on immediate solutions to combat COVID-19. This includes waiving certain regulatory barriers for shelters or facilities that were built with the funding.
Aside from hotel leases, the state is also immediately procuring 1,309 travel trailers from FEMA and other private vendors so homeless individuals have a place to self-isolate.
“The purposes of this emergency protective measure is to protect healthy people in those facilities and create capacity in the existing shelter network. These trailers will be deployed to California’s largest population centers,” Newsom’s office explained.
During a news conference Wednesday evening, Newsom predicted that the state might need as many as 19,000 additional hospital beds to appropriately care for those who contract COVID-19. That figure comes as health officials predict around an upcoming 50% infection rate in the state, perhaps within the coming weeks. While not proven, the predictions are in an effort to prepare for possible overflow of the state health care system and facilities.
Statistically, 18% of those people will require hospitalization as they are made up of vulnerable groups.