Federal government set to pay over $35 million to house migrant children in Long Beach

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will pay more than $35 million to use the city’s Convention Center as an emergency shelter for migrant children from now through Aug. 2, according to  the city contract released Friday.

Under the contract with the Convention Center management company, the federal government will pay $197,356 a day for facility rental along with additional fees of up to $113,550 a day for meals and bottled water, assuming the facility reaches its capacity of 1,000 children and 400 staff.

The contract also contains an estimated $858,000 in fees that would be owed to the city of Long Beach for use of services from the Health Department, Fire Department and Police Department—including the resources to manage any potential protests.

The short-term contract is for the period of April 19 to Aug. 2, but it could end sooner if there is no longer a need to shelter the children.

The federal government last month tapped Long Beach to help with the increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the Mexico border. Convention centers in San Diego and Texas have already been converted to emergency shelters.

The first children arrived in Long Beach on Thursday after city officials and community leaders got a chance to tour the facility

The site is expected to house about 1,000 children who are expected to arrive in groups every other day. More are expected to arrive this weekend. The children will include mostly girls 17 and under, and some boys, 12 and under.

Experts anticipate the lease agreement will also have a broader economic impact over the next three months—bringing in an estimated $50 million in total spending.

The analysis published by Robert Kleinhenz of Kleinhenz Economics and Seiji Steimetz, from Cal State Long Beach’s Office of Economic Research, said that the next 100 days of the center’s use could kickstart economic activity in Downtown and the Los Angeles-Orange County metro area.

The $50 million estimate comes from the fees and other costs to lease the Convention Center and hotel room rentals for the hundreds of federal employees, workers and volunteers who will help run the site.

Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city did not enter into negotiations to profit, but said that the migrant child facility could generate the economic equivalent of about 10 conventions.

The Convention Center has largely sat idle during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently has become the city’s largest vaccine administration site. Officials said the migrant shelter will not impact the vaccine site and that the children, staff and volunteers in the shelter will be tested for COVID-19 every three days.

The federal government’s contract with Long Beach ends in August, which is when the city-owned Convention Center plans to resume scheduled events.

Long Beach Convention Center housing about 350 migrant children, with more expected this week

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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