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Emergency Food and Shelter Program

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) is a FEMA-funded program authorized by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The program supplements and expands ongoing work of local nonprofit and governmental social service organizations to provide shelter, food, and supportive services to individuals and families who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, hunger and/or homelessness.

The EFSP National Board is the sole recipient of EFSP grant funds from FEMA and establishes the program’s policies, procedures, and guidelines.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 appropriated $510 million to EFSP. This includes $400 million for local social service organizations aiding our nation’s hungry and homeless and $110 million for organizations providing humanitarian assistance to migrant families and individuals encountered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Funds for Organizations Assisting Migrants

The EFSP National Board’s goal is to award funds as efficiently as possible to meet the urgent needs of local agencies in assisting the unique and vulnerable migrant population.

Awards to eligible organizations will be for reimbursement of services rendered during rolling spend periods, as well as prospective funding for approved projects and activities.

Organizations may view application guidance for the $110 million in humanitarian relief funding for assisting migrants encountered by DHS on the EFSP website.  The application period opened on April 19.

Who is Eligible?

Local nonprofit, faith-based, and governmental organizations in the United States that have provided, or will provide, humanitarian relief to families and individuals encountered by DHS.

How to Apply?

The application will be available on the EFSP website, and the application period opened on April 19. Service organizations’ applications should be submitted via the EFSP website under Supplemental Funding Info.  The local boards and state set-aside committees (acting as local boards) will review and recommend service organizations’ applications and submit them via the EFSP website to the National Board for final review and award determination.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found here: Frequently Asked Questions.pdf (unitedway.org)

Interested agencies should prepare for the application process by gathering and organizing the necessary documentation (receipts and other proofs of purchase) for eligible services.

Eligible organizations must submit their applications within the application period defined in National Board guidance.

Allowable Costs

Allowable costs incurred during the timeframe outlined in National Board guidance will include:

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Basic health and first aid
  • COVID-19 testing and associated medical care needed during quarantine and isolation
  • Other supportive services

All costs must have proper documentation, including receipts and other proofs of purchase, such as a cancelled check or bank statement showing electronic payment.

How Funds Will Be Awarded

Local boards in communities will review applications from local agencies and make recommendations to the National Board on which eligible organizations should be awarded funds. The EFSP National Board will review recommendations from the local boards and state set-aside committees (acting as local boards), make the final award determinations, and disburse funds directly to the awarded organizations.

Funding disbursement to local organizations is expected to begin as soon as a month after the application period is opened, or approximately mid-May 2021.  Most of the funding is anticipated to be awarded to service organizations from southern border states where the greatest needs are expected to be met, but organizations in all states nationwide may apply if they are serving this population of vulnerable people. 

Additional Funds for Carrying Out the Regular EFSP in Assisting People Nationwide

Applications for the $400 million in supplemental funding appropriated by Congress as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to the regular EFSP will be accepted later. EFSP funds can be used for a broad range of services, including mass shelter, mass feeding, food pantries and food banks, utility bill payments to prevent cut-offs, rent/mortgage payments to prevent evictions/foreclosures, and transition assistance from shelters to stable living conditions. COVID-19 testing and associated medical care needed during quarantine and isolation will also be allowable expenditures with these supplemental funds.

The formula for allocating these funds to local communities (counties and cities) is established by the National Board to target areas of highest need. Factors considered in the formula are national population, unemployment, and poverty rates.  The $510 million in supplemental funding is in addition to $130 million in annual funding for EFSP. The formula method will be applied to allocating all funds except for the $110 million providing humanitarian relief, which will be directly awarded to service organizations.  A total of $640 million will have been made available to the EFSP National Board for fiscal year 2021.

Additional Resources

Local boards and contacts can be found on the EFSP website under the Supplemental Funding Info tab. Applicants do not need to contact their local boards to submit applications but can contact their local boards for technical assistance and to ask questions.

For additional questions, contact EFSP staff at suppfund@uww.unitedway.org.

Last updated April 21, 2021