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LA To Expand Project Roomkey For Homeless Seniors After Biden Administration Agrees To Fund 100% Of Its Costs

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A program that uses hotel rooms throughout Los Angeles to house homeless seniors will be expanded after the federal government agreed to reimburse all the program's costs.

homeless Skid Row
A homeless woman pushes her belongings past a row of tents on the streets of Los Angeles, California on February 1, 2021. - The federal judge overseeing attempts to resolve the homeless situation has called for an urgent meeting to discuss worsening conditions and the poor official response. Combined now with the coronaviruspandemic and worsening mental health and substance abuse issues, US District Judge David Carter who toured Skid Row last week likened the situation to "a significant natural disaster in Southern California with no end in sight." (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday that the Biden administration has committed to reimbursing up to 100% of the costs of Project Roomkey through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Previously, state and local governments in Project Roomkey were being reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75% of costs for those rooms.

"Long before COVID, when I talked about the homelessness crisis, I always said we needed a FEMA-level response to a crisis that predates the pandemic, is involved in the pandemic and will postdate this pandemic," Garcetti said Wednesday. "And I was pleased that finally in the midst of this pandemic, we saw the opening of that door, with FEMA offering to help us get our unhoused neighbors off the streets."

Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA, first launched in April to temporarily house homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Individuals must be 65 or older or have underlying medical conditions to qualify for the program.

It's unclear exactly how many people are currently being housed through Project Roomkey. On Wednesday, Garcetti said that at one point, the city was housing 2,000 people in hotels and motels, while the county housed 4,000.

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"I've instructed my team and the City Council has instructed our city government together to, with LAHSA, bring hundreds more Angelenos indoors by using those empty hotel and motel rooms across the Southland, and to find folks who are the most vulnerable and put them in shelter," Garcetti said.

The homeless crisis has continued to grow in L.A. and across California, an issue which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The 2020 Greater L.A. Homeless Count -- which was conducted last January, prior to the pandemic -- recorded 66,433 people living on the streets of L.A. County, a staggering 12.7% increase from the year before.

In October, following seven months of deliberation, L.A. city and county officials finalized a $300 million deal to provide housing for thousands of homeless people who live in and around the region's freeways.

In 2018, Garcetti introduced the "A Bridge Home" program, which involves putting up about temporary homeless shelters around the city. So far, there are 30 such shelters either completed or in development.

In November 2016, L.A. city voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless.

In March 2017, L.A. County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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