The vast majority of more than $83 million spent on reducing homelessness in Utah last fiscal year came from Washington, according to data provided by the state Office of Homeless Services and analyzed by The Salt Lake Tribune. And that pandemic-era aid is drying up.
Nearly two-thirds — approximately $51.9 million — of the funding that went toward helping unsheltered Utahns in fiscal 2023 was drawn from the American Rescue Plan Act, commonly called the coronavirus relief bill. Passed by Congress in 2021, the law offered one-time funding and was meant to help mitigate some of the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Both state and local governments also forked out tens of millions of dollars in fiscal 2023 — July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023 — to bolster services, with $19.7 million that came from Utah alone, and another $11.7 million from a mix of “state and local” taxes being spent.
Most of the state funding came from a bill put forward in 2022 by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, Homeless Services Amendments. At a committee hearing for the bill, Eliason said despite the Legislature allocating funding toward homelessness in the past, homelessness continued to grow.
“We still have significant needs in our community,” Eliason told committee members. “We’re not here to talk about the causes of homelessness — everything from housing prices to economic issues, to mental health and substance use issues. They’re all still real. And unfortunately, some of them have been exacerbated in recent years.”
Then, Eliason’s bill also allocated $1 million of ARPA funds, and Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, introduced a bill that sent another $55 million of ARPA funds to the Office of Homeless Services.
This past session, as much of the federal funding going toward homelessness was running out, the Utah Legislature didn’t increase its appropriations toward the issue.
According to data published by lawmakers’ fiscal analyst’s office, between the 2022 and 2023 sessions, the amount of funding the Legislature set aside for the Office of Homeless Services shrunk from $22.1 million to $12.1 million. Approximately $10 million from Eliason’s bill is ongoing, resulting in the same amount of money going toward homelessness this year.
Under the Legislature’s massive 2023 appropriations bill, $30 million in ARPA funding is going toward homeless services in fiscal 2024 — less than the previous year, but still trumping the state’s contribution. Lawmakers also cut taxes by $480 million this year.
Utah has just under $7 million in ARPA funding left available, The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget said.
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The rate of homelessness in Utah, meanwhile, has continued to tick up.
An annual report released in June by the Office of Homeless Services indicated that the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time increased by 10% in fiscal 2022. It was the second year in a row that metric went up.
While Office of Homeless Services Director Wayne Niederhauser said at the time he was “so grateful” for the money his office received to address the issue, he added, “We’re going to need to continue to get more appropriations for these purposes if we’re going to get ahead of the game.”
Although it’s unclear where fiscal 2024 funds may be applied, data provided by the Office of Homeless Services shows how fiscal 2023′s money was divided up.
Just over two-thirds of the money was split up among 38 nonprofits, and 19 local government entities claimed nearly a quarter of the funding.
Approximately 7% of the funds was handed out to two developers.
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