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Federal Inaction on COVID-19 Is A Disgrace. We Need Congress To Act NOW.

NASHVILLE, TN, August, 17, 2020 –  The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the long-term failures of the health care, housing and safety net systems in the United States. For 30 years, the HCH community has worked on the front lines to provide comprehensive health care to people experiencing homelessness in thousands of clinical sites, encampments, and shelters across the country. We have seen how poverty, homelessness, and poor health combine to create devastating consequences for millions of people. Now, we are critically aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these conditions and the urgent need for Congress to send help.

It is a disgrace that Congress has abdicated its role to provide for the general welfare of those they represent. They literally left town and refused to pass additional legislation that contains adequate COVID-19 support for struggling families and state and local governments. Furthering the disarray, President Trump signed empty Executive Actions that neither prevent evictions nor provide the relief needed, leaving everyone to fend for themselves. Toothless Executive Actions and divisive partisan bickering are not the leadership we need to solve serious problems that are only getting worse.

Art Rios, Sr., Chair of the NHCHC’s National Consumer Advisory Board, says “the inaction of our elected officials puts millions at risk of losing paychecks, housing, and food. We are facing a surge of people entering homelessness at the same time that communities are struggling to care for people already without homes. There is nowhere for people to go, and no such thing as social distancing when thousands are forced onto the streets because of government inaction.”

Our community needs support NOW. The gaps in the health care, housing, and safety net systems coupled with the stress of COVID-19 have left many people vulnerable to worsening physical and mental health, loss of housing, relapse, or worse. The pandemic has only exacerbated these problems. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act in May that contains significant resources for health care, housing, unemployment, and state and local aid. Yet this lifeline of assistance currently sits untouched in the Senate. Meanwhile, millions of vulnerable people are at imminent risk of eviction and financial ruin, and health care providers are still struggling to meet the health care needs of their patients.

“Providers are working nonstop and our clients are experiencing unprecedented suffering. Many were uprooted with the pandemic and lost access to medications and supports. We need more funding for housing. We need more resources to provide a comprehensive person-centered response.” says Mary Tornabene, MS, APRN, FNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner at Heartland Alliance Health in Chicago, IL, and Chair of NHCHC’s Clinician’s Network.

Amid the chaotic federal response, the pandemic has also led many more Americans to see homelessness as the public health, housing, and humanitarian crisis it has always been. This increasing awareness has brought new partners and new opportunities to the forefront. As a result, HCH providers have expanded critical telehealth services and worked with a broader range of community partners to shelter people in hotels or single-room occupancy units. As a society, we have a renewed opportunity to meaningfully address the health care, housing, and safety net problems that have been ignored for decades. This November, we also have an opportunity to vote and encourage our neighbors without homes to register to vote for leaders that recognize housing and health care as a human right.

Members of Congress are home for August recess even though they failed to pass a COVID-19 relief bill. While they are home, tell your member of Congress to do its job: get back to work to extend the eviction moratorium and provide needed funding for housing, health care, unemployment, and state and local aid. Our lives depend on it.

Contact: Barbara DiPietro, Ph.D., Senior Director of Policy, 443-703-1346, bdipietro@nhchc.org

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