(U.S. Senate) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced $50 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) capital grants following efforts from U.S. Senator Jon Tester to remove barriers to access this funding which will help organizations mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and protect homeless veterans during the national health crisis.
“Homeless veterans are some of the most at-risk for COVID-19 complications during this pandemic,” said Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “With my bill, we were able to remove bureaucratic red tape on VA grants for organizations assisting homeless veterans during the pandemic, opening up resources to organizations in Montana and across the country to safely house and protect our most vulnerable vets. This funding will give a needed boost to the folks working to end homelessness and ensuring we’re prioritizing the safety of those who’ve served.”
Tester introduced the Grant Regulation Adjustment during the Coronavirus Emergency (GRACE) for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020 last Congress, legislation removing barriers to VA funding for Grant and Per Diem (GPD) grantees working to end veteran homelessness. This legislative fix eliminates matching funds requirements for new grant recipients and freezes any property repayment requirements for current grantees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, allowing organizations to update or acquire spaces to better allow for social distancing and quarantining. Tester successfully secured this legislation as part of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, an end-of-year veterans’ package to better address the needs of veterans nationwide.
GPD grantees nationwide can apply for up to $2.5 million in funding through the VA GPD National Program Office to purchase or upgrade transitional housing to expand individual units in lieu of congregate housing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic represented a huge challenge for veterans facing housing instability,” said Kathryn Monet, Chief Executive Officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “We thank Senator Tester and his staff for their commitment to ensuring VA can safely meet the needs of veterans staying in shelters on their way to permanent housing. The removal of long-standing disincentives for VA Capital Grant recipients has made the funding opportunity more attractive to providers, which will result in facility safety and essential infection control improvements at Grant and Per Diem shelters across the country. These improvements will also allow providers to decrease congregate spaces within their programs, increasing access to populations like women, transgender, and nonbinary veterans who often cite safety in congregate facilities as a disincentive for entering them on their path to housing.”
As the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester voted to deliver nearly $20 billion in CARES Act funding, including $98 million for VA programs to better assist veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.
Doubling down on his longtime push to support homeless veterans, Tester recently joined Veterans’ Affairs committee lawmakers in urging Acting Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Matt Ammon to release its annual report on homelessness—a major resource for Congress in making decisions about how to legislate and allocate resources to respond to unhoused veterans.