California Unleashes Hundreds of Millions in Emergency Aid for Cities and Counties to Fight Homelessness

LOMA LINDA December 4, 2019 – Overcoming bureaucratic roadblocks erected by the Trump administration, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that California cities and counties can start applying for hundreds of millions of dollars in Emergency Homelessness Aid provided by the 2019-2020 California budget at Veterans’ Village in Loma Linda. He also announced that Matthew Doherty, former executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness under both the Obama and Trump administrations and a leader in the field, would be advising his Administration, as Doherty called for the federal government to do more to solve this crisis.

“California is doing more than ever before to tackle the homelessness crisis but every level of government, including the federal government, must step up and put real skin in the game,” said Governor Newsom. “California is making historic investments now to help our communities fight homelessness. But we have work to do and we need the federal government to do its part.”

Earlier this year, California passed the state’s historic $1 billion investment — the most ever spent — on programs to fight homelessness. That amount included $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid to cities and counties. But due to politicized roadblocks put up by the Trump administration, California cities and counties have been blocked from putting that funding to work in their communities. State law requires the final funding allocations be based off federally-approved 2019 Point in Time Count (PIT) homelessness data. This is routine, non-political data, submitted by Continuums of Care in partnership with cities and counties and has historically been quickly reviewed, approved, and distributed by the federal government to every state in the nation. But while local governments submitted this data to the Trump administration months ago, the federal government refuses to release it.

But instead of acquiescing to the Trump administration’s roadblocks, the Newsom administration has created an interim solution that allows California jurisdictions to begin applying for and spending their hundreds of millions of dollars in local emergency aid more quickly. The Newsom administration has collected preliminary, estimated PIT data that cities and counties submitted to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year. Based on these unofficial totals, Governor Newsom announced today that his Administration is opening applications to Continuums of Care and cities and counties can begin applying for and spending 75 percent of those totals immediately — nearly $500 million of the full $650 million — while we wait for final numbers from the federal government. The final 25 percent will be allocated to cities and counties once the Trump administration releases finalized PIT count data and the state can more precisely allocate the remainder of the Emergency Aid for Homelessness to cities and counties based on data-driven funding formulas.

San Bernardino County, for example, can immediately begin applying for approximately $6 million to fight homelessness as a result of this announcement. Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties together are estimated to receive approximately $36 million.

The Governor also announced Matthew Doherty as an expert advisor to the Governor’s Office and Agencies. Doherty has over 25 years of leadership experience in both the private and public sectors, focused on ending homelessness and the creation and integration of housing, services programs, and economic opportunities. He most recently served from 2015 to 2019 as executive director at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the federal agency charged with coordinating the federal response to homelessness and with creating national public-private partnerships to end homelessness across the nation, under both the Obama and Trump administrations. Doherty, now an independent consultant, will work with the Newsom administration to craft a federal advocacy agenda related to homelessness, as well as bring national best practices for solving homelessness to local jurisdictions across the state.

“Having led the Council on Homelessness under both Republican and Democratic presidents, I have seen first-hand that cities and states acting alone are not going to be able to fund the solutions that are required to meet this challenge. Much more federal investment is needed to make meaningful progress and solve this crisis,” said Doherty. “I am excited to work with Governor Newsom, who has demonstrated national leadership addressing homelessness throughout his career, and be part of California’s efforts to tackle the issue head on.”

In September, the Governor signed 13 bills into law building on the state’s historic $1 billion investment in the 2019 Budget Act. The budget provided $650 million to local governments for emergency homelessness aid. That same month, Governor Newsom called on the Trump administration to increase federal investments in housing options for people experiencing homelessness and requested 50,000 additional Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. In July, Governor Newsom announced regional leaders and statewide experts who will advise his Administration on solutions to address the state’s homelessness epidemic.

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