Chairman Takano Hosts First Live, Entirely Virtual, Bipartisan Congressional Forum
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs discusses the COVID-19 Pandemic Response for Homeless Veterans
Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)
Miguel R. Salazar
Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)
Miguel R. Salazar
RIVERSIDE, CA – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks in the first live, public, and entirely virtual, bipartisan congressional forum entitled “Coronavirus Pandemic Response: The Impact of Economic and Healthcare Services on Homeless Veterans in America” featuring Kathryn Monet, Chief Executive Officer at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. A Link To The Video of Chairman Takano’s historic opening statement and remarks as prepared can be found below.
Video of Chairman Takano’s opening remarks.
Chairman Takano’s remarks as prepared:
Good Afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us today to discuss “Coronavirus Pandemic Response: The Impact of Economic and Health Care Services on Homeless Veterans in America.” COVID-19 has changed everything. Every American is affected, and America’s veterans are not immune. In fact, veterans are facing unique challenges right now due to the global pandemic. But the challenges created by COVID-19 won’t go away overnight. In the wake of this pandemic new challenges will emerge and their impact could become just as severe as the novel coronavirus. There is no shortage of frightening statistics that point to how tough times are for countless Americans right now: More than 55,000 Americans dead from COVID-19. Nearly 7,000 veterans have tested positive. Of which 435 veterans have died. And the necessary mitigation measures have resulted in 26 million new jobless claims in a month – including an additional 4.4 million just last week. These jarring numbers will impact veterans lives for years and that is why our work here today is so important.
To those watching at home, I want to thank you for being a part of today’s forum and I hope this video forum finds you and your loved ones well. I also want to remind any of our viewers - if you are a veteran who is experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 please contact your local VA. VA is treating all veterans regardless of their participation in VA medical care or their discharge status, so I implore you to call and get the care you need. You can call from anywhere 1-844-698-2311 to arrange medical services. Let me repeat that number again is 1-844-698-2311.
Today we will be addressing several issues related to veteran homelessness: First, the COVID-19 crisis has affected tens of thousands of veterans who were already homeless before stay at home orders were issued. Some services that serve homeless veterans, such as shelters, have had to close in places due to positive tests or a lack of workers to support the population.
Second, COVID-19 has brought our economy to a halt. Over the last month, 26 millions of Americans have lost their jobs, are struggling to pay their bills, and are wondering how they will pay their rent or mortgages. Congress has placed a moratorium on foreclosures over the next three months – but it’s a temporary solution. Foreclosure or eviction could become a problem for countless veterans if more permanent solutions are not put in place. This crisis could force more veterans into homelessness, and we must act to minimize that impact. Learning what resources we can use to prevent homelessness in the first place is paramount.
One of the lessons learned during the 2009 recession was the value of aggressive action to prevent homelessness in the first place. This is something we should all heed in our work – it is TEN TIMES cheaper to provide resources to prevent homelessness in the first place than it is to house someone once they have become homeless. In response to the 2009 recession, Congress acted in the first month of President Obama’s administration to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which created the HUD Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP). This program sent resources directly to local governments to help renters. This program, among other actions, resulted in an unchanged homelessness rate from 2008-2012.
The recently passed CARES Act, which provided over $2 trillion in assistance in the wake of COVID-19, also provided $20 billion in support to VA to help our nation’s heroes. VA was given broad authority to use this funding. As such, VA allocated $300 million to the homelessness program office. I remain unconvinced this is anywhere near enough, and I hope our work here today moves us closer to what is really needed.
Finally, we must dedicate resources in the recovery phase to reintegrate veterans into their communities. This Congress has now passed four COVID-19 assistance packages, but we have failed to provide our local governments and hospitals the resources they need to deliver for our much needed homeless veterans.
For example, the CARES Act included $4 billion for the Emergency Solutions Grant, which can be used by states and local governments for rapid rehousing programs, but this is only 1/3 of the need estimated by the National Coalition to End Homelessness. This is on top of the massive shortfalls states are facing due to COVID-19 response. The answer is not – as Leader McConnell has said – for states to file for bankruptcy. The answer is for this Congress to step up. States are facing budget short falls in the billions – my own state of California will likely see the shortfall this year exceed $25 billion. If President Trump thinks the federal government is a back-up for states then it’s time we back them up!
I look forward to Ms. Monet’s thoughts on how we can most effectively support states, but time is running out, and we must act. I hope this becomes a real priority the next time we return to Washington to provide additional assistance, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses what resources are needed
Again, I appreciate everyone’s participation in today’s forum, and I look forward to today’s conversation.
For more resources on how student veterans can access their benefits and take care of their mental health throughout the pandemic, visit the Committee’s COVID-19 resource page.
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