WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding $201 million to 731 new programs to help the homeless, part of a record amount aimed at keeping the homeless out of jails and emergency rooms, the department said on Tuesday.
The new grants include $15.7 million to support 103 new housing and service programs in rural areas, HUD said in a statement.
The $201 million is in addition to $1.47 billion awarded to existing programs in December to provide homeless people housing along with such services as job training, healthcare and treatment for alcohol and drugs.
The fiscal 2011 total of $1.67 billion is a record and is up from $1.63 billion last year.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan told a conference call the programs were vital to keep people off the streets and cheaper than having the homeless dealt with by jails and emergency rooms.
He said the $201 million was a record for new grants under the program.
U.S. homelessness fell by 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011 despite a slow recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
By state, the biggest amount of funding will go to California, which will get $37.9 million to fund 87 programs.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Eric Walsh)