Alcee Hastings Backs Effort to Expand Benefits for Homeless During Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., is backing a proposal to expand federal benefits for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hastings and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex. are cosponsoring U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman’s, D-Calif., “COVID-19 Serving the Homeless by Expanding the List of Tenant Eligible Residences Act”  (COVID-19 SHELTER Act).

“This bill aims to ensure that the federal government supports creative ways to shelter unsheltered individuals during and after the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Hastings‘ office noted.

With more than 500,000 homeless Americans and crowded shelters possibly leading to the virus spreading, the bill would create 200,000 Section 8 vouchers for families in need and set up a disaster assistance voucher program “with 500,000 vouchers available to individuals who were unsheltered at the time of the COVID-19 crisis for up two years with the ability for the HUD secretary to renew the vouchers if necessary.” The bill would also expand Section 8 units to bring in hotel rooms, unrented Air BnBs and RVs.

Hastings weighed in on Tuesday as to why he was backing the proposal.

“In addition to exposing pre-existing issues in our housing system, this pandemic has caused many families and workers in Florida and across our nation to face financial challenges, housing insecurity, and other hardships they could have never anticipated. We have a responsibility to address the housing shortages, shelter overcrowding, and other urgent issues this crisis has created for the organizations trying to keep up with the growing need for innovative housing solutions,” said Hastings.

“As a co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, I am proud to introduce the COVID-19 SHELTER Act with Representatives Jared Huffman and Eddie Bernice Johnson to address this need and provide shelter to our neighbors during this time of crisis,” he added.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis, the country faced a serious lack of affordable housing and far too many individuals sleeping on the streets and in shelters,” said Huffman. “America is facing an unprecedented crisis, with thousands of people losing their livelihoods and ability to support their families every day, which will only serve to exacerbate the struggles to find affordable housing. There is a long road ahead before the county can get back on its feet, and it’s going to take ingenuity and hard work to make sure the most vulnerable populations are cared for. With the COVID-19 SHELTER Act, we can creatively house individuals experiencing homelessness and support them throughout the crisis and its aftermath.”

“This pandemic has brought to light the stark inequities in our society when it comes to access to health care and housing, and there are none harder hit than our constituents struggling with homelessness and housing insecurity. As the co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, I am proud to lead the COVID-19 SHELTER Act with my colleagues Representatives Jared Huffman and Alcee L. Hastings,” said Johnson. “This bill will be a transformative effort to provide emergency housing for individuals during this pandemic. It is critical that we strive to expand homelessness prevention resources as part of our societal response to contain this coronavirus.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee this week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.


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