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NYC Faces $4B Cost to House Migrants Bused from South

New York City's effort to convert about 100 hotels and other facilities into temporary housing for some of the 50,000 migrants who have been bused to the city from the southern border since last spring will cost as much as $4 billion over the next two years, the New York Times reports. That level of spending could result in cuts to other city services, but it has proved something of a boon to the city's pandemic-weary hotel industry and respite for migrants now trying to establish new lives in a foreign land. Two of the vendors contracted to set up emergency shelters were SLSCO and Garner Environmental Services, both Texas-based disaster relief companies. SLSCO was given a contract for $135 million starting in November; Garner was given a $30 million contract. Critics of the city’s response see irony here, since it was the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who began busing migrants to northern cities last year to make a political statement.

Contracts obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests and a recent report from the office of Comptroller Brad Lander provide new insight into how hotel and even office building owners stand to profit from the conversions. In October, the city signed a $40 million contract to buy out the 1,300-room Row until mid-April; it was the first of several Midtown hotels that now solely house migrant families. The majority of shelter operations in hotels around the city are run by nonprofits contracted by the Department of Homeless Services. But a handful of the newest ones, including four in Midtown, are being run directly by the public health care system, NYC Health & Hospitals, with support from the city’s Emergency Management office and other agencies. The nine facilities, known as Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, or HERRCs, are more expensive to operate than normal shelters because of how quickly they had to be set up and the services they offer. They offer on-site medical screenings, counseling and help setting up travel to other destinations. The mayor ordered their creation when he declared a state of emergency in October, arguing that the sudden arrival of so many people constituted an unprecedented crisis. Many of the hotel rooms are being paid for through a bulk contract with the Hotel Association of New York City Foundation, which signed a $237 million deal that began in September.


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