LA County will maintain Project Roomkey — for now

Current federally-funded program to house homeless will last through September

L.A. County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell (Getty, UCLA)
L.A. County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell (Getty, UCLA)

Los Angeles County officials said it would continue Project Roomkey through September, but wouldn’t expand the federally-funded program that rents hotel rooms to homeless people at risk of Covid.

The challenge related to waiting for reimbursement was the biggest factor for the decision, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials said they would maintain the existing program at 11 of the 12 participating hotels for another six months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After President Biden took office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency committed to covering 100% of the cost of Project Roomkey. But the program still requires the county to pay for most of the operations upfront before seeking reimbursement, L.A. County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell said in a statement, the Times reported. That wait could take years, he said.

Ansell, who is retiring at the end of March, said that having to cover the costs amid the economic fallout of the pandemic “would place a significant burden on the county’s cash flow.”

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The county has been able to get advances or request expedited reimbursements for about half of the program’s costs, according to the report.

Around 23,000 people statewide have been temporarily housed through Project Roomkey since it was created by the state last spring at the onset of the pandemic. The Biden administration has meant the federal government’s funding commitment has extended the program. That move came months after L.A. authorities decided in September to wind down Project Roomkey because of uncertainty in funding.

The program’s successor, Project Homekey, involves the state funding the acquisition of hotels to be converted into interim housing. The city of L.A. and L.A. County have both participated in that program.

[LAT] — Dennis Lynch