(U.S. Senate) – Doubling down on his effort to protect homeless veterans during the national health crisis and assist organizations in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently introduced legislation to cut red tape on grants provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“Homeless veterans are some of the most at-risk for COVID-19 complications, and their safety must remain our top priority,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “My bill would ensure that facilities nationwide are well-equipped to stop the spread of the coronavirus by removing bureaucratic red tape on VA grants for organizations assisting homeless veterans during the pandemic, and helping to keep those working to end homelessness laser-focused on their mission of providing timely, quality support to those who’ve served.”
The Grant Regulation Adjustment during the Coronavirus Emergency (GRACE) for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020 allows the VA to provide grants to organizations to update or acquire spaces to better allow for social distancing and quarantine than present group facilities without unnecessary funding regulations. It removes matching funds requirements for new grant recipients and freezes any property repayment requirements for current grantees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) extends our gratitude to Ranking Member Tester for introducing S. 4910, the GRACE for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020,” said Kathryn Monet, Chief Executive Officer. “Since COVID-19 has gripped this country, the safest spaces for anyone are ones that allow for social distancing and isolation, both of which can be challenging to achieve in congregate facilities. Safe operation of Grant and Per Diem shelters will require renovation, physical expansion in some instances, and other modifications in order to comply with CDC guidelines for infection control and prevention. This bill removes long-standing disincentives that could deter providers from utilizing VA capital grants to fund renovations and improvements at their facilities. NCHV looks forward to working with the Ranking Member and urges Congress to pass this bill before adjournment to improve shelter safety as COVID cases surge once more nationwide."
The COVID-19 crisis has affected tens of thousands of homeless veterans as shelters have closed and funding for vital services have become strained. To assist these veterans during the pandemic, Tester introduced the Homeless Veterans Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 earlier this year to allow VA to use existing funds for a wider range of services, authorize the Department to collaborate with outside organizations to facilitate encampments on its properties, and ensure veterans and community providers participating in VA homeless programs have access to telehealth services.
As Ranking Member, Tester has fought tirelessly to ensure that veterans and the staff who provide their care have better access to life-saving supplies during the pandemic. After voting to deliver nearly $20 billion to strengthen the VA’s response to COVID-19, Tester called on VA Secretary Wilkie to implement key provisions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide critical supplies, personal protective equipment, and testing capabilities with veterans and employees.
Full text of Tester’s bill is available HERE.