Grant funds will aid homeless during pandemic

Supervisors accepted more than $350K in state reimbursement

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San Benito County officials have approved agreements worth more than $300,000 to help house, treat and contain the spread of Covid-19 among the local homeless population. The supervisors also recently accepted more than $350,000 from the state Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office to help reimburse local offices for pandemic-related expenses.

The board of supervisors approved the funds unanimously at the April 21 meeting.

Specifically, the board approved the following expenses and revenues:

• A $50,740.88 grant from the state to help protect the homeless population in response to the Covid-19 public health crisis. The funds can be used for emergency shelter operations, shelter capacity, isolation capacity, street outreach, transportation and staffing.

A March 23 letter to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency from the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council reads, “Specifically, this award is intended for investments into Covid-19 prevention and containment efforts for shelters, including, but not limited to, medically indicated services and supplies, such as testing and handwashing stations, and enhancements to existing shelter facilities.”

• An agreement with the Monterey/San Benito Counties Coalition Services Providers for Covid-19 Emergency Homelessness funding for about $55,000 to last from March 25, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

Funding for the two above items were allocated from SB 89, an emergency Covid-19 funding law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

• The board also approved a $257,362 Continuum of Care agreement—funded by a federal grant—to provide housing, support services and case management for the county’s homeless population, from April 1, 2020 to March 21, 2021. The Continuum of Care program has been funded by the federal office of Housing and Urban Development for the last nine years, and has served up to 14 individuals and families each year with permanent housing, according to county staff.

County staff will use the HUD grant to provide “permanent supportive housing by ‘master leasing’ apartments and/or homes to serve unaccompanied homeless individuals and/or homeless families,” reads an April 21 staff report presented to the board.

“San Benito County is in need of additional resources and facilities to adequately serve homeless individuals and families,” the staff report adds.

According to the 2019 “point-in-time” census report, there are 283 homeless individuals in San Benito County, which reflects a decline of 46 percent from 2017, according to county staff.

State guidelines for homeless populations in response to Covid-19 are to stay in place, with a combination of local, state and federal resources providing hand washing stations and other hygiene infrastructure.

The supervisors on April 21 also accepted Covid-19 response funding from the state’s Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness in the amount of $351,251. These funds are not solely for homeless services, but will be used to reimburse the county for its response to the pandemic.

These state funds can be spent on incident management, jurisdictional recovery, information management, countermeasures and mitigation, and surge management and biosurveillance, according to county staff.

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