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Emergency Food and Shelter Program Overview

Release date: 
December 13, 2006
Release Number: 

The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program (EFSP) is a Federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has been entrusted through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (PL 100-77) “to supplement and expand ongoing efforts to provide shelter, food and supportive services” for the nation’s hungry, homeless, and people in economic crisis.

A National Board, chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, with representatives from American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.; The Salvation Army; United Jewish Communities; and United Way of America governs the EFS Program. The National Board has selected United Way of America to once again serve as Secretariat and Fiscal Agent to the National Board. In addition, the authorization as revised (PL 102-550) in 1992 requires that a homeless or formerly homeless person be a member of each EFSP Local Board.

The following operating principles, originating in Fiscal Year 1984, remain in force for Fiscal Year 2007:

  • fast response
  • allocations to neediest areas
  • public/private sector cooperation
  • minimum, but accountable reporting
  • local decision-making

The original authorizing legislation (PL 100-77) specifically calls for “sensitivity to the transition from temporary shelter to permanent homes and attention to the specialized needs of homeless individuals with mental and physical disabilities and illness and to facilitate access for homeless individuals to other sources of services and benefits”.

Also in accordance with the legislation, the National Board encourages Local Boards to place special emphasis on identification of and assistance to the elderly, families with children, Native Americans, veterans, and mentally and physically disabled.

This year’s appropriation of $151,470,000 brings the total distributed to more than $2.952 billion over the program’s 24-year history. In funded jurisdictions, Local Boards similar in composition to the National Board advertise the availability of the funds; establish priorities among community needs; allocate funds to non-profit and government emergency food and shelter agencies; and, help monitor program compliance.

Funded agencies, known as “Local Recipient Organizations”, use EFSP supplemental funds for mass shelter, mass feeding, food distribution through food pantries and food banks, one-month utility payments to prevent service cut-off, and one-month rent/mortgage assistance to prevent evictions or assist people leaving shelters to establish stable living conditions. In each of the last few years, nearly 12,000 local non-profit and government agencies have received EFSP funds in more than 2,500 jurisdictions nationwide.

Jurisdictions that qualified for awards were chosen based on the following criteria:

  1. most current 12-month national unemployment rates;
  2. total number of unemployed within a civil jurisdiction;
  3. total number of individuals below the poverty level within civil jurisdiction; and,
  4. the total population of the civil jurisdiction.

More specifically, jurisdictions were selected to receive funding during Phase 25 according to one of the following criteria:

  • Jurisdictions, including balance of counties, with 13,000+ unemployed and a 3.8% rate of unemployment.
  • Jurisdictions, including balance of counties, with 300 to 12,999 unemployed and a 5.8% rate of unemployment.
  • Jurisdictions, including balance of counties, with 300 or more unemployed and an 11.0% rate of poverty.

Varying rates were selected to recogn...

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:38