by Photo courtesy of San Diego County

San Diego County extended its federally funded COVID-19 hotel sheltering program, allowing residents in need to utilize the program through the end of June. 

President Joe Biden announced in early March that COVID-19 Emergency Protective Measures will have extended coverage until July 1. This extended funding for the program, which was set to expire on April 1.

According to a county spokesperson, the county asked for nearly $100 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund the program with this extension. 

In March 2020, county officials took over the Crowne Plaza in Mission Valley, among other hotels, to temporarily house people in need of isolation, many of whom are homeless and may be struggling with mental illness or substance use disorders. As of mid-December 2021, the program served about 13,700 people.

An inewsource investigation prompted the County Board of Supervisors to order an evaluation of the sheltering program in March 2021, after severe gaps in services were exposed, and a suicide in a hotel room went undiscovered for five days. 

San Diego State University’s Institute for Public Health evaluated the county’s hotel sheltering program, and released a  154-page report that includes more than 40 confidential interviews with county employees, hotel program staff, and guests, on Aug. 3, 2021, confirmed the investigation. According to SDSU’s report, the county’s contractor, Equus Workforce Solutions, is unqualified to run the program, and that staff had not received training to work with many of those who are isolated.

Since it's launch, the $5.2 million a month hotel program has received praise for its success in preventing the spread of COVID-19. In all, the county spent $85 million in funding from FEMA on the at-risk program and a much-larger Public Health Hotel Program since March 2020, according to David Estrella, director of housing and community development services for San Diego County.

The county has also spent another $1.8 million for contracting, and Dr. Denise Foster, the county’s chief nursing officer since the beginning of the pandemic, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Now, people under the program will have until June 30 to find other housing. 

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