Seattle will receive more than $12 million to combat homelessness from the federal government’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package known as the American Rescue Plan Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday.
Other King County cities, alongside county government, are to take in an additional $13.8 million.
The funds, part of $5 billion dedicated to local governments to be used for homelessness spending, can be spent on a range of programs, from hotel-based shelters to permanent housing for people exiting homelessness. And unlike earlier, short-term pandemic relief grants, the money will not expire until 2030, giving local governments the chance to fund homelessness solutions that extend well beyond the current crisis.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said she was optimistic that targeting homelessness in relief funding, coupled with President Joe Biden’s proposals for an American Jobs Plan and federally funded affordable housing to be created over the next eight years, could eradicate homelessness. HUD is set to allocate another $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers in the coming weeks.
Fudge also emphasized the importance of using the new funds to create low-income or supportive housing, rather than building crowded, large-scale shelters that bring higher risks for spreading infection.
“We want to take people out of shelters and put them in stable, permanent housing,” Fudge said. “So we’re hopeful that the shelters are going to go away as a consequence of what we’re doing today.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan has been working with King County on a plan to distribute the new federal funds, a mayoral spokesperson said, and will announce such a plan in the coming weeks.
Anticipating the infusion of new federal homelessness dollars, last month the city announced that it had identified a third hotel to shelter people experiencing homelessness, estimated to cost at least $5 million in rent and services for people sheltered there.
In March, the City Council approved a plan to spend a separate $12 million on hotel rooms and tiny houses for people experiencing homelessness, with the expectation that the money be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who chairs the council’s homelessness committee, said he hoped the new money could be spent on acquiring property for permanent housing.
“When we get money like this from HUD to help us out, figuring out ways we can stretch the value to acquire more brick-and-mortar housing is a big priority,” Lewis said.