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Sac County and housing - ARPA update

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Big thanks to Mason Taylor - our ARPA expert from the California COVID Justice team at Public Health Advocates!

See Mason in our latest ARPA Chit Chat here!

Also, click here to read an interview of Supervisor Kennedy by Robert Hansen (journalist at Newsbreak) where you can find some truly awesome insights on housing issues. Find an example below of him excusing the criminalization of the unhoused population by the Sheriff's Dept:

I can’t dump on the Sheriff because it’s not in his jurisdiction. You can’t blame him for what’s going on at that corner.

*this quote is in reference to a lawsuit from District Attorney & Sheriff over the Howe and Fair Oaks encampment

What are we reporting on today?

First up: the 2/9/22 Sacramento County BOS meeting - Item #2

Update on Project Roomkey sheltering efforts, approval of an appropriation adjustment of $7,451,434 to continue COVID response efforts (Department of Human Assistance)

Some background on Project Roomkey:

  • Motels are leased using COVID relief funding to provide private rooms, three daily meals, health services and community resources offered by staff that are on-site 24 hours a day

  • They currently have three motels, with a total of 391 rooms available. The average length of stay is 7.5 months.

As of January of 2022, 425 individuals have exited Project Roomkey to stable housing.

As of January 19th 2022,1,735 individuals and 773 people in isolation, have been housed through Roomkey.

As it stands now, the closure dates for these three hotel leasing opportunities are between March and May because the funding for the project will run out. The Governor’s budget does not include additional funds for Project Roomkey; instead, most funds have been planned for Project Homekey.

Currently, they have worked within county funded partners to re-house people, but Supervisor Desmond asked a great question around which community-based organization partnerships have been tapped, to ensure that we’ve "left no stone unturned."

What's the main takeaway?

This item authorized the Department of Human Assistance (DHA) to pay motel leases and service providers for Project Roomkey through the end of May, 2022. The DHA aims to get "eligible costs" reimbursed through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

This is yet another example of the County consistently, and continually, failing to prioritize caring for our unhoused community. Is Project Roomkey a perfect solution? No, of course not. But it's something, and was a strategy at least attempting to help alleviate the impact of COVID on the unhoused population.

However, according to the staff who wrote the background doc for the item:

As the need for COVID-19 prevention declines, DHA is working thoughtfully to ramp down PRK sites and continue to use available funds to support and rapidly rehouse PRK households.

So I guess we're good right? COVID isn't a thing anymore? Thanks for letting us know.

Next up: 2/8/22 Sacramento County BOS meeting - item 6 *this item was dropped

Authorization Of The Expenditure Of Up To $11.4 Million In Funding From The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Of 2021 For The Purpose Of Providing Premium Pay To Eligible Essential Workers Employed By The County…

This item was dropped from open session, pending further negotiations with labor unions in the county. This agenda item was previously discussed during open session in January, and it was pushed because there was not a final decision on using the funds in this way. County employees called into the previous meeting and shared that they felt the one-time $1500 payment in hazard pay was insufficient for the services they have provided during the pandemic, i.e. putting their lives at risk for pennies on the dollar.

What's the main takeaway?

The continued piecemeal use of ARPA funds is eating away at the lump sum of $150 million in the County. Housing and homelessness were identified TWICE NOW as the primary concern for funding by residents, and we are still waiting to see real projects be funded towards homelessness alleviation and the creation of additional, safe housing options.

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