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COVID-19

News >  Nation

Billions in virus aid aim to shelter, test the homeless

UPDATED: Thu., April 2, 2020

People prepare places to sleep in area marked by painted boxes on the ground of a parking lot at a makeshift camp for the homeless Monday, March 30, 2020, in Las Vegas. Officials opened part of a parking lot as a makeshift homeless shelter after a local shelter closed when a man staying there tested positive for the coronavirus. (John Locher / AP)
People prepare places to sleep in area marked by painted boxes on the ground of a parking lot at a makeshift camp for the homeless Monday, March 30, 2020, in Las Vegas. Officials opened part of a parking lot as a makeshift homeless shelter after a local shelter closed when a man staying there tested positive for the coronavirus. (John Locher / AP)
By Kevin Freking Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration said Thursday it is distributing about $3 billion in the first round of coronavirus aid to help the homeless find emergency shelter and communities expand testing and treatment.

Advocacy groups say the homeless population is particularly at risk during the pandemic. Many already have health problems such as heart disease or diabetes, and live in conditions that do not allow for frequent hand washing and social distancing.

The initial installment of money represents about one-quarter of the total that Congress allocated to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a $2.2 trillion aid package. The agency said it will distribute the remaining $9.1 billion once new grant formulas are set.

The department said the biggest chunk of money for local governments and nonprofits will pay for new medical facilities for testing and treatment and other activities. Grant recipients can also use the money to acquire hotel buildings to accommodate the isolation of patients, or to support businesses that make medical supplies.

About $1 billion will go for emergency shelters and providing vouchers so the homeless can stay at motels. This money can be used to provide child care, mental health treatment and employment assistance.

About $64 million will help those with HIV and AIDS find short-term lodging.

In California, which has the nation’s largest homeless population, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged thousands of hotel rooms to help homeless people. In Las Vegas, the homeless have been directed temporarily to sleep in rectangles painted on a parking lot as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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