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Mother Lode Gets $316K For Newsom’s COVID-19 ‘Project Roomkey’

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Sacramento, CA — California is now the first state in the nation with FEMA approval to provide the means to safely isolate those experiencing homelessness in California to protect them and the state from COVID-19.

On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom officially launched Project Roomkey in conjunction with county partners across the state with an initial goal of securing up to 15,000 rooms for the purpose.

According to the Governor’s Office, state and local governments will receive up to 75 percent cost-share reimbursement from FEMA for hotel and motel rooms, including wraparound supports such as meals, security, and custodial services.

Essential behavioral health and health care services will also be provided by the local governments and community partners, as needed with local governments responsible for identifying which shelter clients or encampment residents are selected for hotel isolation placements and transporting them to them for intake.

The measures are being taken to protect public health by isolating the medically vulnerable, thinning out the shelter population for social distancing, and slowing the rate of spread of COVID-19, which will in turn “flatten the curve.”

“Homeless Californians are incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19 and often have no option to self-isolate or social distance,” Newsom states. “By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources. We’re working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible.”

The state is providing dedicated support teams to counties, including assistance in identifying hotels, negotiating and executing operating agreements along with technical assistance support enabling providers to maintain the records necessary to receive federal reimbursement. Local governments are also able to tap the $150 million in emergency homeless COVID-19 aid that Governor Newsom and the Legislature made available.

According to Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) Executive Director Joe Bors, over $316,000 is flowing down from the state for expanding shelter space, including by acquiring motel and hotel space, to the Central Sierra Continuum of Care (CSCoC), which ATCAA chairs.

The monies, to be split between the four partnering CSCoC counties: Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, and Mariposa, will filter down through each of the county governments to their Behavioral Health officials. Each county will decide how best to spend it before June 30. Among their options are locating and leasing empty motel or hotel properties to segregate infected or at-risk homeless.

ATCAA, which manages the CSCoC Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) for all counties but Mariposa, will maintain records of homeless individuals and families accessing the services, including tracking when they depart to facilitate access for housekeeping.

The Governor’s ongoing efforts to deploy over 1,300 trailers to local governments continues using state-purchased units that local governments operate, serving the same function as the Project Roomkey efforts. So far, the state has purchased and deployed 584 trailers to locations selected by partnering local governments. Newsom additionally announced on Friday the state received an additional 28 trailers through philanthropic support in partnership with Homeful, a California-based nonprofit focused on eradicating homelessness.