Governor Newsom Announces FEMA Reimbursement Update for Local Governments Participating in Project Roomkey 

New reimbursement policy also applies to temporary isolation housing for health care workers, agricultural workers and people who have a need to quarantine or isolate upon release from prison

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized reimbursement for non-congregate shelter through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, including California’s nation-leading Project Roomkey. The state will no longer be required to submit requests every 30 days to reauthorize reimbursement for this life-saving mission.

“This action serves as acknowledgement of the importance of efforts like Project Roomkey in protecting the most vulnerable Californians and validates all of your efforts to implement this first-in-the-nation program,” wrote Governor Newsom in a letter to Project Roomkey partners.

When the pandemic began, the Governor secured FEMA cost-share for Project Roomkey, enabling local governments to scale up the leasing of hotels and the placement of clients at a very rapid pace. California has also made $512 million in emergency funding available to support local governments to expand and sustain Project Roomkey while beginning to transition participants to permanent housing.

The new reimbursement policy applies to other non-congregate shelter programs the state launched during the pandemic, including: the California Healthcare Workers Program, which provides hotel rooms to doctors, nurses and other critical front-line health care workers for free or at a discount; Housing for the Harvest, which provides safe, temporary isolation spaces for agricultural and farmworkers who test positive or were exposed to the virus; and Project Hope, which provides hotel accommodations to people released from state prison who have a need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure or positive status.

Last month, the Governor announced plans to immediately direct $62 million in one-time funds from the State’s Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account to counties to continue providing housing to current Project Roomkey participants. After consultation with the Legislature, the Administration has made these funds available immediately to local governments with Project Roomkey sites so that clients living in motel or hotel rooms under the program will not be forced to return to street homelessness while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Today’s news from FEMA means that local governments will also have the assurance of predictable federal support to continue to defray the costs of this critical program, at least through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Since its announcement in April, Project Roomkey has used CARES Act funding and FEMA cost-sharing to successfully shelter more than 22,300 individuals experiencing homelessness and who are at highest risk of COVID-19, such as people over 65, people who have underlying medical conditions and people who have been exposed to the virus but who do not need hospitalization. Building on support from the Legislature and the Administration, the local governments implementing Project Roomkey have included over 16,000 hotel and motel rooms in 55 counties and three tribal nation areas.

The Administration is eager to partner with the Legislature when it reconvenes in January to consider more permanent solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness who are at risk of COVID-19, including potential expansions of the Homekey program and other rehousing strategies.