San Francisco wants federal taxpayers to help cover the more than $423 million it spent housing approximately 5,000 homeless people in hotels and other “non-congregate” facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total cost per homeless person housed by San Francisco during the pandemic was $84,600, according to data reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco city officials had expected the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the city $190 million for housing homeless people during COVID-19, however, due to a rule change, the city could be on the hook for the spending.


San Francisco and other cities across California housed the homeless in hotels during the pandemic to aid with social distancing and reduce COVID-19 transmission.

FEMA said in October 2023 that it would not reimburse local governments for many hotel stays that lasted more than 20 days between June 2021 and May 2023, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

City officials say FEMA’s move not to reimburse some hotel stays longer than 20 days “pose[s] a significant potential risk” to San Francisco’s budget. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, said the city’s budget deficit could reach $1 billion by the 2028 fiscal year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some city officials have called FEMA’s policy change unfair. San Francisco City Controller Ben Rosenfield characterized FEMA’s actions as an “impermissible retroactive law” and claimed that the agency never mentioned its 20-day limit during the pandemic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“As the pandemic continued to evolve and health regulations per [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance changed, FEMA adjusted its policies to meet CDC guidance,” a FEMA spokesperson told the Daily Caller New Foundation.

“FEMA is committed to working with each impacted jurisdiction on all requests for federal funding to maximize reimbursement for the appropriate life saving measures they implemented to protect their citizens from COVID-19, while also ensuring the appropriate oversight of federal funds,” the spokesperson continued.

San Francisco officials are prepared to fight for federal reimbursements. “We intend to explore every option available to appeal any claims denied by FEMA Region 9 that we believe to be eligible for reimbursement, based on the guidance in effect at the time,” Rosenfield said.

Regardless of whether San Francisco succeeds in making FEMA reimburse its hotel spending, taxpayers will foot the bill. City taxpayers will be on the hook if San Francisco pays and federal taxpayers will be if FEMA does.

San Francisco managed to clear out homeless encampments in some of its neighborhoods ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the city in November.

San Francisco is not the only city racking up large bills putting homeless people in hotels. Los Angeles mulled spending $250 million on acquiring a luxury hotel, as well as eight motels, to house the homeless in May 2023.

Other Democrat-run cities across the country, like Chicago and New York, are facing budgetary strain due to the ongoing migrant crisis and have also appealed to the federal government for financial assistance.

The San Francisco Mayor and Controller’s offices did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.