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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program and Homeless Assistance

Francis X. McCarthy
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board (EFS) Program provides supplemental funding to homeless services providers across the nation. EFS was first authorized by P.L. 100-77, the Stewart B. McKinney-Bruce Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Title III, McKinney-Vento Act), which became law in 1987. Eligible services include the provision of overnight shelter and served meals, assistance to food banks and pantries, one month’s rental or mortgage assistance to prevent evictions, and one month’s utility payments to prevent service cut-offs.

Since its inception, the program’s recipient organizations have provided over 2 billion meals, 241 million nights of shelter, 4.3 million rent and mortgage payments, and 5.9 million utility payments. The program is administered by the EFS National Board, which is chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and is comprised of representatives from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, the National Council of Churches, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Federations of North America, and United Way Worldwide. Two of the program’s distinguishing features are its focus on local decision-making, and its relatively modest administrative costs.

The program was last authorized in 1994, and has been operating under authority provided by annual appropriations acts. In the past, its funding has generally increased during times of high unemployment and decreased as the unemployment rate declined. For example, in FY2009, the program received an appropriation of $200 million. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5, ARRA) then temporarily increased the EFS program’s funding to $300 million for FY2009. In more recent years, the program’s funding has declined. The program received an appropriation of $200 million for FY2010, $120 million for FY2011, and $120 million for FY2012. Under the full-year Continuing Resolution (CR, P.L. 113-6) for FY2013, the EFS program is scheduled to receive just under $120 million; however, with sequester amounts not yet confirmed the final amount could be less than that.

Although legislation providing EFS an appropriation of $120 million for FY2012 was signed into law on December 23, 2011, the distribution of the program’s funds did not begin until August 15, 2012, the latest award distribution date in the program’s history. FY2011 was also a notable year for the program because the EFS National Board changed its distribution formulas, resulting in some large jurisdictions not receiving direct funding for the first time.

The National Board’s distribution formula uses unemployment and poverty statistics to determine amounts awarded directly to communities across the nation. After notifying jurisdictions of the amount that they will be receiving, EFS Local Boards, comprised of local affiliates of the organizations represented on the National Board, at least one homeless or previously homeless person, and representatives of local government, are convened. Local Boards advertise the availability of funds, accept applications for funding, and determine which local agencies to fund and how the funds are to be used. The National Board also provides funding to State Set-aside Committees (SSA) which provide funding to jurisdictions with significant needs that may not have qualified under the National Board’s formula, or to further supplement funding to jurisdictions that received a direct award. Each state, through direct awards and SSA, receives a minimum of $250,000.

Date of Report: April 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R42766
Price: $29.95

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