Governor Gavin Newsom has resumed the dispersal of $1 billion in funds for homelessness weeks after he announced he would withhold the money from cities and counties. While pleased with the decision, the about-face has left local leaders shaking their heads and wondering why the governor paused the money in the first place.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the pause on Homelessness Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grants last month, just before the November election. These grants benefit every county, Continuum of Care, and the 13 largest cities in the state.
The governor complained that the plans local governments had submitted for reducing unsheltered homelessness were inadequate. He suggested they rework their plans and commit to more aggressive action to fight homelessness.
Newsom received criticism from several Big City mayors, the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties. The pushback appears to have worked. As the Sacramento Bee reports, the release of funds comes despite “little, if any, substantive changes to the plans and goals set by cities and counties.”
In a tweet, the governor said he had “honest and robust” conversations with local leaders that produced “progress.”
“As of today, 73 of 75 applicants have committed to higher goals on ending street homelessness,” he wrote.
But no “higher goals” have been submitted to the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency that oversees the grant program. All the state has is signed "commitments” from local agencies agreeing to adjust their goals and efforts in the future.
So, what was that all about, anyway?
It was a performance, some experts say.
“The next best thing to solving a problem is to look like you’re trying to solve it,” Dan Schnur, political science professor at USC, told the Bee. “If they do come back with more ambitious goals, that’s a big win for him. And if not, now they’ve signed a form, so he can get mad at them again down the line.”
It could take up to 60 days for localities to receive the funds they were denied.