The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides more than $12 billion in funding for critical housing, homelessness, and community development programs for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities will likely direct Community Development Block Grant funding included in the act to the most vulnerable, including seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and displaced workers, through public improvements, public health services, and workforce development activities. We find that funding included for the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, which funds activities for people experiencing homelessness or those at risk of homelessness, will result in average award amounts for states and localities many times more than 2019 levels. However, additional ESG funding will be needed, given the unique risks people experiencing homelessness face during this pandemic, and given that those who do contract COVID-19 have higher susceptibility to hospitalization, critical care, and even fatality. We find that funding for primary housing assistance programs will only go so far in preserving housing assistance, depending on how funds are used and the number of assisted households who lose employment income during the pandemic. Additional funding will also be needed to extend rental assistance to low-income households not already receiving that support. The Emergency Food and Shelter Program will also provide housing and food assistance to families in economic emergency and to areas struggling with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Although the CARES Act provides much-needed investment, it is clear that more funding will be needed as the pandemic continues, and soon.
This brief was corrected on May 22, 2020. In figure 1, CARES Act funding for public housing is $685 million, not $658 million. All other estimates are unaffected.