COVID-19: The Latest Guidance and Resources for Homelessness Services

COVID-19 Funding, Flexibilities, and Waivers

Federal agencies are working to provide resources and flexibility to communities in support of efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic among people at risk of and experiencing homelessness.

Many of those resources come through provisions of the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27. Agencies are also providing guidance on flexibilities within existing funding that can be used in response to COVID-19. 

NEW: Federal Programs that Support Individuals Experiencing Homelessness, HHS, HUD, FEMA, USICH (April 17) 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is coordinating the federal response to COVID-19, along with HHS and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, to ensure state, local, tribal, and territorial governments receive the supplies and support they need, including medical supplies.

State, territorial, tribal, and local government entities and certain private non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for Public Assistance. FEMA assistance will be provided at a 75% federal cost share. This assistance will require execution of a FEMA-State/Tribal/Territory Agreement, as appropriate, and execution of an applicable emergency plan. Local governments and other eligible PA applicants will apply through their respective state, tribal, or territorial jurisdictions.

Learn more: FEMA Coronavirus Pandemic: Eligible Emergency Protective Measures (March 19) and FAQs on FEMA-supported non-congregate sheltering, FEMA (March 31)

For an example of an executed federal disaster declaration, see the State of Massachusetts Federal Disaster Declaration Eligible Costs (April 6)

The national emergency declaration authorized Public Assistance Category B reimbursement for emergency protective measures. It does not include additional categories of assistance, such as infrastructure repair and replacement, which are needed after typical natural disasters.

FEMA is developing a simplified online form that applicants can complete, and on which they may explain work activities, answer basic questions, provide limited supporting documentation, and provide a cost estimate. FEMA and the recipient will review this information, follow up with limited requests for additional information if necessary, and award assistance. Recipients will have access to all projects in PA Grants Portal, consistent with the traditional PA process.

Learn more: FEMA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Public Assistance Simplified Application (March 23)

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

In coordination with federal and national partners, HUD has developed a series of resources, including guidance to support Continuums of Care and homelessness services providers, as well as local and state agencies, in efforts to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes information to support implementation of the recently passed funding for homelessness assistance under the CARES Act.

HUD has issued a memorandum providing regulatory waivers of certain Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), Housing for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), and Consolidated Plan requirements to help:

  • Prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Provide additional supports to individuals and families eligible for CoC, ESG, and HOPWA assistance who are economically impacted by COVID-19.

Learn more: Availability of Waivers of CPD Grant Program and Consolidated Plan Requirements to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 and Mitigate Economic Impacts Caused by COVID-19 for CoC, ESG, and HOPWA (April 1)

Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program

The ESG program provides funding to: (1) engage homeless individuals and families living on the street; (2) improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families; (3) help operate these shelters; (4) provide essential services to shelter residents, (5) rapidly rehouse homeless individuals and families, and (6) prevent families/individuals from becoming homeless.

Continuum of Care (CoC)

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

Department of Labor (DOL)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared COVID-19 a nationwide public health emergency on January 27, 2020, enabling eligible applicants to request funding for Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grants (DWGs). Economic Recovery DWGs are also available to states and other eligible applicants that are affected by major economic dislocations, such as mass layoffs. 

Learn more: COVID-19 Dislocated Worker Grants (May 5)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The CARES Act contains $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses. In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Paycheck Protection Program provides loan forgiveness to small businesses, including non-profit and faith-based social services, for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses, including non-profit and faith-based social services, that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans enable small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
  • SBA Debt Relief provides a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more: Small Business Administration COVID-19 Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources (April 3)

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The CARES Act authorized one-time Economic Impact Payments of up to $1,200 to eligible invididuals and families, along with $500 for qualifying dependents.  People who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and recipients of Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), survivor benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans Affairs benefits, and Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits will automatically receive payments. People who don't fall within those groups will need to use the Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Information Here application on the IRS website. 

Learn more: Economic Impact Payment Information Center (April 17) 

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

In response to COVID-19, USDA is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve program participants across their 15 nutrition programs. States have been granted waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants.

Learn more: Child Nutrition Program State by State COVID-19 Waivers, USDA Food and Nutrition Services (webpage, no publication date)

US Department of Education (ED)

ED has released information on a new streamlined process for providing states funding flexibilities to best meet the needs of students and educators during the COVID-19 national emergency. The new flexibilities, authorized under the CARES Act, allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning, among other flexibilities to move resources to areas of highest need during the national emergency. 

Learn more: Letter to Chief State School Officers regarding flexibilities in education funding (April 3)

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has developed a series of frequently asked questions to address state concerns about how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds can be used to response to an increased need for basic assistance and other financial benefits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes information about TANF’s administrative flexibilities for both states and tribes.

Learn more: TANF flexibilities in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 24)

Child Welfare

The Administration for Children and Families’ Children’s Bureau (CB) has released information to inform title IV-B/IV-E agencies of the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act and to provide basic information on the new laws. This includes  information about the temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate that is used in determining the Federal share of expenditures for assistance payments under the title IV-E Foster Care, Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Assistance programs, and making additional appropriations for title IV-B, subpart 1 of the Act.  

Learn more: ACF grant flexibilities in conducting human service activities related to or affected by COVID-19 (March 30)

US Department of Justice (DOJ)

DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has begun to develop a series of FAQs and guidance to grantees on flexibilities and updates regarding COVID-19 impacts on grant administration and program implementation. Check back for updates, including links to additional resources.

Learn more: Office on Violence Against Women Resources and FAQs for Grantees, Department of Justice (April 3)

US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The VA has developed guidance regarding the use of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) resources to support emergency housing placements for homeless veterans at high-risk of COVID-19.

Learn more: Available SSVF Resources to Place Homeless Veterans at High-Risk of COVID-19 (March 13)