Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is
opposing legislation that would allow thousands of at-risk homeless New
Yorkers to live in vacant hotel rooms for the duration of the
coronavirus crisis, claiming the price tag is too hefty — but according
to advocates, legislators, and City Council staff, the program could be
paid for using federal government funds.
The 80,000 New Yorkers who sleep in the city’s shelters, streets, and
subways are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, the disease caused
by the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, the mayor announced that the
city would move 1,000 people experiencing homelessness into
double-occupancy hotel rooms each week going forward, in addition to the
2,500 who had already been given hotel rooms. But homeless individuals
and advocates say this isn’t nearly commensurate with the severity or
urgency of the crisis.
Council member Steve Levin has introduced legislation to offer all
residents of congregate shelters and all unsheltered single adults —
12,000 people in total — the option to relocate to some of the 100,000
vacant private hotel rooms across the city. On the current course, Levin
told The Intercept, it’s “inevitable” that New York’s shelters will see
the devastating outbreaks experienced
by shelters in other cities. Already, 94 of the city’s roughly 100
congregate shelters, where single adults live as many as 20 to a room
and eat in communal areas, have seen at least one positive Covid-19
De Blasio’s administration opposes the bill, testifying at a Council
hearing that it would cost the city $495 million over six months. “I
don’t see that as a real number,” Levin told The Intercept. The city has
not answered the Council’s questions about how it arrived at the
estimate but appears not to have factored in the steep drop in the
market rate for hotel rooms amid the pandemic. Levin estimates the bill will cost just $108 million, excluding operational and social services costs.
Regardless of the total price, it is likely that the bill can be
footed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which
reimburses costs for approved state disaster response programs. FEMA is
currently funding California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Project Roomkey,”
which will eventually house tens of thousands of people in 15,000 hotel
Wow, good work there Levin. Although you should include those other costs that way you can expose de Blasio lies better.
Wonder what Maspeth and East New York think of the Mayor's harsh decision.