California has received federal approval for an initiative to procure hotel and motel rooms to homeless residents during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency approved California's request to launch the program, called Project Roomkey. FEMA will reimburse up to 75% of the state and local government expenses required to procure the unused rooms as well as supporting meal, custodial and security services.
Newsom said the state has acquired 6,867 hotel and motel rooms for the program's first phase, with a goal of 15,000. Nearly 900 homeless residents have already been housed in the acquired rooms.
"This is first in the nation," Newsom said of the project and FEMA's approval. "Their support is profoundly significant to address this crisis head-on. It's all around making sure we address the most vulnerable Californians with the kind of acuity and focus that is required at this moment."
The state will first focus on assisting homeless residents who have tested positive for the virus, may have been exposed or are at a particularly high risk of contracting the virus.
Local governments and their relevant partner organizations will also provide behavioral health and general healthcare services at the procured rooms.
In addition to FEMA footing three-quarters of the bill for the program, Newsom said the state has also provided $650 million in emergency grants and $150 million in emergency aid to local governments around the state, which should "address the issue of the 25 percent gap amply."
State officials plan to continue discussions about extending the leases with each acquired property, which have month-to-month extension clauses.
"This was the crisis that predated the current crisis in the state of California and we're doing everything in our power to meet it head-on," Newsom said. "It's a county-state partnership with the county fundamentally driving the car and the state of California building the car."
As of Friday morning, the state has distributed more than 38 million N95 masks, face shields, surgical gowns and other personal protective equipment throughout the state, Newsom said. State officials hope to eventually distribute some 100 million pieces of personal protective equipment to medical facilities in California.