“The inequality of the pain in the current downturn is striking,” said Richard Auxier, a researcher with the Tax Policy Center.
In addition to the proposed rebate checks in California, Mr. Newsom’s office said on Monday that it would ask the Legislature to approve $12 billion in new spending on homelessness over the next two years. If passed, that amount would be the most the state has ever committed to homelessness — 10 times greater than last year and more than the federal government allocated for homelessness in the American Rescue Plan.
“Nothing of this scale has ever been proposed in California history,” Jason Elliott, a senior counselor to the governor, said. “We can’t manage this problem any longer. We need to start solving this problem.”
Most of the money is intended to expand the state’s supply of housing through new construction or converting existing real estate for people living on the streets. In an indication of how homelessness has permeated almost every aspect of the state’s business, it would be parsed through a dozen departments.
California’s spiraling homeless problem has become a crisis up and down the state. It is most severe in coastal centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the sight of sidewalk tents and freeway-side shanties are now an accepted part of the landscape, but has also exploded in smaller interior cities like Fresno and Bakersfield.
On any given evening, more than 100,000 people in the state sleep outside, accounting for about half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless count, even though the state accounts for 12 percent of the United States’ population.
Last year, with the pandemic raging and armed with billions in federal disaster and stimulus funds, Mr. Newsom’s office created a novel program to buy distressed hotels and repurpose them as permanent supportive housing, or housing that is paired with on-site social services. The program, called Homekey, used about $800 million to acquire some 6,000 new supportive units and has since inspired other cities and states to create their own hotel-buying programs.
Mr. Newsom’s new budget aims to vastly expand the Homekey concept, allocating $7 billion in grants that local governments could use to buy and rehabilitate existing buildings.