Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) to introduce the Homeless Veterans Coronavirus Response Act, legislation to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Program Office’s authority to provide food, transportation and communications technology to homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs has been providing much-needed shelter to veterans experiencing homelessness. However, because of current regulations, the VA can’t use existing funds to provide basic needs like food and clothing. This commonsense bill would provide the VA with flexibility to help a vulnerable population at high-risk of contracting COVID-19. I urge the Senate to move on this bill quickly,” said Feinstein.
“The federal government must fulfill its promises to America’s veterans and reduce veteran homelessness. Our bipartisan bill increases veterans’ access to housing, health care, and emergency resources during the ongoing public health crisis,” said Sinema.
In addition to Feinstein, Sinema and Sullivan, the bill is also sponsored by Jerry Moran (R-Kan), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Id.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jim Risch (R-Id.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
The Homeless Veterans Coronavirus Response Act would authorize the following:
- Allow the VA to use funds appropriated for the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program and the Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program to be used to provide homeless veterans, including those in the HUD-VASH program, with food, clothing, blankets, hygiene items, transportation to appointments and communications equipment.
- Allow VA to collaborate with organizations to manage VA land that homeless veterans might be using as temporary shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Set the maximum GPD rate at three times the State home rate during the COVID-19 crisis. The new maximum GPD rate under this bill will be about $150 per veteran per night.
- Allow the VA to fund additional GPD beds without going through the notice of funding availability process. Additionally, this bill waives certain inspection requirements for the GPD and HCHV program to get homeless veterans into new housing as quickly as possible.
- Allow the VA to provide communications equipment to homeless veterans, VA case managers, and community-based service providers to facilitate homeless veterans’ participation in VA telehealth programs.