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March 23, 2020

The Hill: Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing $15.5B in emergency grants for the homeless

Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) introduced legislation Monday that would provide emergency grants to help the homeless and those who work with them to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The Public Health Emergency Shelter Act would offer $15.5 billion in grants to serve homeless communities and train front line staff on disease prevention and mitigation, as well as provide hazard pay to those workers and reimburse them for their costs.

“By investing $15.5 billion in emergency grants to state and local governments, the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act will ensure that frontline workers have the resources and support they need to protect the health and safety of the nearly 500,000 people across this country experiencing homelessness,” Pressley said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, this bill boldly affirms that poverty is not a character flaw, and nobody deserves less because they can’t afford more.”

“Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be comprehensive and, as such, it must center those most vulnerable among us,” Tlaib added. “Families and individuals dealing with homelessness are more vulnerable to this disease at no fault of their own and need access to safe shelter and necessary medical care.”

Pressley and Tlaib, who form half of the squad of progressive freshman congresswomen, noted that the homeless are particularly at risk from the pandemic due to their difficulty adhering to rules about social distancing and remaining indoors and their higher risk of underlying medical conditions.

The bill comes amid a debate between the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democratic House about what provisions to include in a massive economic stimulus measure to lessen the fallout from the pandemic.

Senate Democrats initially asked for $750 billion in state stabilization funds and $450 billion for an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund hospitals and federal agencies, while both parties have agreed on a small-business relief fund of at least $350 billion.

But the two sides have yet to come to an agreement, with a Senior Democratic aide saying Monday that Republicans were “adding unrelated items” including an extension of an abstinence education program that would have expired in May. Republicans say Democrats are trying to drop in unrelated energy provisions.