A Letter To The State Of CA

February 24, 2021

One month ago, the Biden admin announced that FEMA would fully reimburse LA’s efforts to shelter unhoused Angelenos in hotels through Project Roomkey.

But we need the state’s help to take full advantage of this. Why is that, and what can you do to help?

While it never reached its potential, Roomkey moved thousands of Angelenos off the street faster than at any point in our city’s history. But cities still had to cover 25% of the cost, and it prevented the program from covering all eligible unhoused residents.

But cities still had to cover 25% of the cost, and it prevented the program from covering all eligible unhoused residents. 

While FEMA has now promised full reimbursement, LA’s fiscal crisis prevents us from significantly expanding the number of rooms. 

I’ve written about several ways we can overcome this hurdle, but the most promising path is to get money from the state.

CA is now expecting several billion in excess revenue because our state’s high-income earners fared well during the pandemic.

An ever-growing coalition of Angelenos recognizes that the federal government’s offer to Los Angeles is too good to pass up.

Last Friday, the LA Business Council added its voice to the chorus, urging Mayor Garcetti to take full advantage of this moment.

Every day, LA’s window for doing more with Roomkey grows narrower, but it can still become a reality with the state’s support.

Mike Bonin, Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez and I have written to our state representatives to convey the significance and urgency of this moment: 


The Honorable Maria Elena Durazo
State Capitol, Room 2032
Sacramento, CA 95814

February 23, 2021

Dear Senator Durazo,

We are writing to request assistance from the State of California in taking advantage of an unprecedented federal offer that could save the lives of thousands of people in Los Angeles.

On January 21, the Biden Administration announced that FEMA would provide 100% reimbursement for all non-congregate housing through September for persons experiencing homelessness at risk of COVID-19. In simple terms, this means the federal government will cover the full cost of programs like Project Roomkey, which have moved thousands of unhoused Angelenos indoors during the pandemic.

The administration further clarified that FEMA’s 100% reimbursements would be retroactive, so that Project Roomkey costs incurred during 2020, which the previous administration had been reimbursing partially, will now be covered.

This is an opportunity Los Angeles must seize, and we need the help of Sacramento to make it happen. Due to the impacts of the COVID recession on the Los Angeles economy, the City of Los Angeles is facing a $750 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. We are borrowing money and tapping into our reserves to meet this unprecedented fiscal crisis. While the administration has stated a willingness to expedite reimbursements, the City of Los Angeles does not have the cash flow to take advantage of this opportunity. We need Sacramento’s help with funding in the short term, with the knowledge it will be fully reimbursed by the federal government.

The remarkable leadership of you and your colleagues in Sacramento over the past several years has given us tremendously enhanced ability to address our homelessness. State legislation expediting review and approvals of supportive housing and shelter is expanding the pipeline of solutions. State funding for Project Roomkey and Project Homekey has saved thousands of lives. The state’s short-term assistance right now with an effort to expand Project Roomkey will surely save thousands more.


See the original Twitter thread here