One of President Joe Biden’s executive orders, aimed at providing relief to victims of the novel coronavirus, could put American taxpayers on the hook for multi-million dollar housing programs in places like San Francisco, California — programs those cities no longer want to fund themselves.
Fox News reports that under the new order, “certain kinds of emergency housing for the homeless are eligible to be fully reimbursed through September,” and that may include the homeless hotel programs, which are costing San Francisco between $15 million and $18 million per month.
“President Biden signed an executive order Thursday that said certain kinds of emergency housing for the homeless — such as the hotels that San Francisco has leased during the pandemic — will be 100% reimbursed by the federal government until September,” the San Francisco Chronicle said Sunday. “That’s a change from the Trump administration, which said it would pay for only 75% of the cost, leaving the city on the hook for potentially millions of dollars every month. The monthly program costs range from $15 million to $18 million.”
“Biden’s new order could offer a great deal of reassurance for San Francisco, which is currently sheltering more than 2,200 homeless people in about 25 hotels,” the outlet added.
San Francisco officials are not sure where the money to pay for the hotels will come from, and tell the Chronicle that they’re waiting for further guidance. “City Controller Ben Rosenfield said he and his team are still parsing the details of the order, and that he’s waiting for more detailed guidance from FEMA before making declarations about how the program will be affected,” the outlet reported.
One big issue, though, is whether the federal government will only pay for the hotel rooms going forward, through September — a program that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars — or whether San Francisco can expect to be reimbursed for all expenses, even retroactive expenses. That means taxpayers could be on the hook for the entire hotel program.
In addition to the incredible expense, taxpayers could be funding a program rife with problems. Residents of San Francisco’s homeless hotels reportedly “suffer from drug addiction and severe mental illness,” and many have criminal backgrounds, according to the New York Post. It’s difficult to know, for certain, how bad conditions within the housing is, because “the city has evoked emergency-disaster law to keep the information private. Officials refuse to notify the public about what is happening in their community and are blocking the press by withholding the list of hotels and preventing reporters from entering the properties.”
San Francisco had tried to move some of the homeless individuals out of hotels at the end of 2020, but the plan failed when activists demanded the city continue to provide free room and board for the homeless indefinitely.
New York City also has its own homeless hotels program. That program has left some NYC residents concerned for their own safety and demanding city officials find somewhere else to house individuals at risk of contracting coronavirus.
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