A group of 29 U.S. Senators is calling for a renewed focus on ensuring COVID-19 relief--particularly the initial $600 payments from the first round of CARES Act funding--is making its way into the hands of those who need it most: the homeless.
"This pandemic won't end until all Americans are healthy, are vaccinated and are safe from it," said U.S. Senator Chris Coons. "As we're trying this year to deliver vaccinations, unemployment insurance, health care assistance, and funding relief to American families, there are some pockets, some areas of our country and in our communities, that are left out. One of those is the folks who are currently homeless."
While there are any number of reasons an individual may be experiencing homelessness--short-term or extended--each and every one of those American citizens deserves the financial aid being distributed by the federal government to help people during the difficult times created by the pandemic.
"Whether they're homeless veterans; whether they're homeless because of addiction or mental health challenges; whether they're homeless because of housing challenges or a recent shortfall like the loss of their job, a traffic accident, a fire, there's lots of different driving causes of homelessness, and lots of different organizations in our state that serve and reach out to folks who are homeless."
Coons said the proposed legislation first looks to make sure those organizations who have the most direct contact with the homeless populations in a given state are being utilized to make sure those populations are away of the availability of the stimulus money, and they're being guided on how to access it.
"We should be working in partnership with the state, with local governments, and with the faith community that is engaged in outreach to providing housing solutions to ensure that those who can get--and are entitled to get--CARES Act funding from last year, receive it," the senator said. "And that that is applied in a way that helps them to regain stable housing, and to get back on their feet."
Those organizations just need some federal guidance on how to most effectively achieve that messaging.
"I am confident that the social service network here in the state of Delaware, which has regular contact with folks who are homeless in our state...One of the things that this bill would help do is empower those who are working with the homeless, as caseworkers and as social service agents, to give them those resources at the same time they're counseling them about how to get back into safe sanitary stable housing."
The IRS reported there were 9 million non-filers who have yet to claim their initial stimulus funding. The group of senators would also like the Treasury Department to do the following:
- Publish specific procedures for how those without a permanent address, government issued identification, or bank account can access their payment;
- Expand guidance for non-filers and provide additional options for people to claim their payments. As many people experiencing homelessness have limited or no access to internet, a website where non-filers can register is insufficient; and
- Work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct outreach to local Continuums of Care and social service organizations.