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Providing Food and Shelter Relief to Communities Across the Country

As the nation faces many new challenges amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one of the toughest is also a consistent one: providing food and shelter for those in need.

The National Board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) was formed to meet challenges such as these. This week, the program began disbursing $200 million in grants from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help people and communities across the country that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will support local social service agencies and organizations dedicated to feeding, sheltering and providing critical resources to our nation's hungry and homeless.

EFSP grants can be used for a variety of services to assist hungry and homeless people including food in the form of served meals or groceries, payment of one-month’s utility bills to prevent loss of services, payment of one-month’s rent or mortgage to prevent evictions or foreclosures, and transition assistance from shelters to stable living conditions.

Over the past 38 years, EFSP distributed more than $4.8 billion to over 14,000 organizations in more than 2,500 communities in the United States and its territories. EFSP assisted in providing an estimated 3.1 billion meals, 293.4 million nights of shelter, 7.2 million utility payments and 5.3 million rent/mortgage payments to help families stay in their homes will have been provided.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was established by Congress in 1983. The legislation created a National Board, chaired by FEMA, that consists of representatives from American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide. Congress appropriates funding to FEMA which then awards it to the National Board. Using a formula designed to allocate money to areas with the highest need, the National Board qualifies jurisdictions (counties and cities) for funding.

Once jurisdictions are selected, local boards convene to consider applications from local social service agencies. Local boards are made up of representatives from voluntary organizations with knowledge of and experience with community need. A homeless or formerly homeless person serves on every local board. Oversight by the National Board, FEMA and independent auditors ensures there is accountability in the stewardship of the program.

For 38 years, EFSP has been working to ensure that even in the toughest times, impacted communities across our country can get the help they need. This work continues as EFSP rises to meet COVID-19 challenges by helping to meet the basic food and shelter needs of the most vulnerable people in our nation.