FEMA Cash Flow Non-Issue

April 15, 2021

On January 21, President Joe Biden announced that FEMA would provide 100% reimbursement to municipalities for costs associated with sheltering the unhoused in non-congregate shelters. Prior to this, the federal government offered a 75% reimbursement rate

Following this announcement, city leaders not only failed to expand Project Roomkey, the program that provides hotel and motel rooms for medically vulnerable unhoused Angelenos, but have dramatically scaled it back. At its height, Project Roomkey had over 3,700 occupied rooms. As of April 12th, less than 1,700 rooms are occupied.  More confounding still is the fact that Mayor Garcetti has not filed any paperwork to request this FEMA reimbursement. 

Why have Mayor Garcetti and City Council not applied for these funds? They cite “cash flow” problems. 

On April 12th at a Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council meeting, when asked about this, current Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin said the following (emphasis ours):

“I was very troubled by the news reports that you mentioned because quite frankly while we had had budget shortfalls as it were, our treasury at any given moment in time, and it can fluctuate depending on when money is coming in and when it’s coming out, but our treasury has a balance of around 10-ish billion dollars and there are ways that we can front the money for something if we know that we are going to get it. So the fact that we didn’t actually spend the money that we could’ve spent because we hadn’t yet gotten it, I was actually deeply troubled by that and still am because the point that I’ve made repeatedly is that if the issue is cash flow, we and our office, we can solve that cash flow issue. That should not be the impediment.” 

– Ron Galperin, Los Angeles City Controller

The City Controller works independently of the Mayor and City Council, giving the office power to answer questions that might otherwise be politically inconvenient for other elected officials.

With this information now coming to light, we urge Mayor Garcetti and the City Council to make use of the FEMA reimbursements immediately and expand the number of hotel/motel rooms available to shelter unhoused Angelenos. We encourage the Mayor and City Council to listen to and work closely with the City Controller to ensure the availability of funds throughout the process. Finally, the voices and needs of the unhoused must be at the forefront of any program meant to serve them, and such programs must not be used to justify displacement or criminalization.

It is unconscionable that five Angelenos die every day on the streets while the City of LA has the resources to provide a room to every unhoused Angeleno immediately.