- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this week awarded federal funds totaling $153 million to help feed and shelter the nation’s hungry and homeless in 2005, including more than $2 million each to Maryland and Virginia and $396,000 to Washington.

The funding was made available by Congress through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program and is aimed at supporting social service agencies in more than 2,500 cities and counties across the country, said Michael D. Brown, the department’s undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.

The money is used to supplement food, shelter, rent, mortgage and utility assistance programs for people with non-disaster-related emergencies.

“On behalf of President Bush, I’m honored to extend the federal government’s helping hand to our nation’s most needy people,” Mr. Brown said. “The dedicated members of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program again have successfully carried out this worthy mission.”

States receiving the most money were California, with $21.1 million; Texas, $12.9 million; New York, $10.5 million; Illinois, $7.4 million; Florida, $7.2 million; Michigan, $6.5 million; Ohio, $6.1 million; Pennsylvania, $5.6 million; and Washington, $4.08 million.

The 22-year-old program is administered by a national board of volunteer agencies from across the country and chaired by FEMA. The board qualifies jurisdictions for annual funding awards based on criteria such as current population, unemployment and poverty levels. Grants are awarded to nonprofit community and government organizations chosen by local boards in the qualifying jurisdictions.

Homeland Security officials said that in addition to direct funding, 8 percent of this year’s total appropriation has been set aside for state grants to aid the needy in nonqualifying jurisdictions.

The funds were first authorized by Congress in 1983 and are appropriated annually under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Mr. Brown noted that with the 2005 allocation, more than $2.65 billion in federal aid will have been disbursed through the program since its inception.

Member agencies of the national board include the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, United Jewish Communities, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the Salvation Army and the United Way of America.

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