Phoenix COVID-19 Update: Housing For Homeless, Tests For Police, Fire

By Christina Estes, Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 1:02am
Updated: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 12:12pm

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cop walks by trash pile
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Trash and belongings left behind as city crews prepared to clean on Feb. 5, 2020.

Finding a hotel to house homeless people and providing financial support to Phoenix’s smallest businesses are among the latest plans approved by council members. During Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved spending nearly $18 million in federal coronavirus funding

Microenterprise Grants And Loans

Last week, the Phoenix IDA, in partnership with the city, announced a $2 million small business relief grant program. So many people responded that the application process is now closed. But another one focused on microenterprises will be announced as soon as details are worked out.

Businesses with no more than five employees. The idea is to provide grants and loans for the smallest enterprises — for example, a family owned restaurant that either closed or is barely staying afloat. The plan is to use $2 million in federal money to help at least 200 businesses. And, there’s a similar plan in the works to help at least 40 nonprofits in Phoenix.

COVID-19 Homelessness Plan

As part of a nearly $9 million homelessness plan, Phoenix would like to house 100 seniors in a hotel. Assistant City Manager Deanna Jonovich told the council the city would want to hire an outside provider to run the program. 

“Because it will require 24/7 services,” she said.” We’ll need to consider the security, the laundry services, the wraparound case management, as well as meals each and every day.” 

From there, the goal is to move them into permanent, stable housing. Other proposals include more shelter beds and housing support. The city estimates it could reach 200 individuals and 555 families experiencing homelessness.

HUD Money

The largest amount — almost $12 million — comes from Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD.  That will be split between the city’s public housing operating costs and the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program. 

Some of the money will cover things like personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, but most will cover the loss of rental revenue. People who live in government owned housing or private housing where they use government-issued Section 8 vouchers pay rent based on their income. Their rent is never more than 30% of their income, so if their hours are cut or they lose their job then the amount of rent they pay will be reduced, and Phoenix must make up the difference.

Testing Police, Firefighters

Phoenix will work with Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute to offer free COVID-19 tests to the city’s first responders. 

The tests will be voluntary and offered to 3,667 sworn police officers and 1,789 sworn firefighters. Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney presented the idea to the council. 

“This testing is FDA-approved and ASU would be actually making the test themselves, so again, it’s not taking away from testing that would be done in other parts of the community,” he said.

He said ASU made the offer because first responders are at higher risk of being exposed and results can help determine where the coronavirus is spreading and receding. ASU thinks it can find a donor to cover the $100 dollar cost per test. The program will begin as soon as details are finalized. 

While privacy laws should be respected, the city will get results and the HR Department will alert others that may have come into contact with that person. The infected person will not be allowed to return to work until two weekly, consecutive tests come back negative.

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