A dispute between Denver officials and administrators with the Federal Emergency Management Agency could cost the city close to $32 million, money already spent on homeless shelters last year that FEMA is poised to refuse to reimburse.
Ongoing funding for the city’s congregate shelters, group shelters where people sleep in the same large room, could also be impacted by FEMA’s pending decision. But city officials are adamant its facilities and services will not be immediately impacted if a new source of funding has to be identified.
“This doesn’t mean that our shelters are closing,” Denver Department of Finance spokeswoman Julie Smith said. “People are still going to be able to access our shelters and services.”
The dustup, first reported by the Denver Gazette, hinges on a reimbursement request city officials filed on Nov. 19 seeking roughly $40.6 million from FEMA for a variety of costs related to sheltering people experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The request covered the period from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2021.
FEMA has already authorized nearly $84 million in payments supporting city shelter programs between March 2020 and June of last year. But agency officials say that city and state leaders’ decisions to roll back public health orders, specifically those dealing with reducing the density of people in homeless shelters, disqualified some services from reimbursement.