Nonprofits, governments urged to apply for FEMA reimbursements for helping migrants

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$110 million available in federal funds to any organization or government in US that has helped migrants and documented expenses properly

Migrant women are given baby bottles and infant formula on March 17, 2021, inside the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, Texas. Nonprofits, like this, are eligible to apply for $110 million in reimbursement funds from the federal government. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

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McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Non-governmental organizations, municipalities and government agencies that fed, clothed and helped migrants who crossed the Southwest border should apply for $110 million in available funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a South Texas lawmaker said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, held an online news conference with leaders from FEMA and the United Way national governing board to tout FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which through its American Rescue Plan offers to reimburse organizations and governments for expenses incurred assisting migrants on the Southwest border.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX (Courtesy Photo)

Reimbursements are available for certain qualifying expenses incurred from Jan. 1 through March 31, and receipts must be provided in the applications. Monday is the first day that applications may be submitted for this time period.

Current funds that are available have been boosted due to additional funds approved by Congress for COVID-19 relief.

Cuellar says the national governing board that oversees the funds has seen a dramatic improvement from when FEMA funds were fist appropriated by Congress in 2014 to help border communities, but hardly ever seemed to make it to those who had actually spent the money.

“It’s been day and night, working with the board,” Cuellar said. “This new mechanism has changed the way we provide humanitarian relief down there.”

Reimbursement funds, however, are not only earmarked for border states, but any NGO or government organization that has documented spending on transportation, shelter, food, clothing, or other expenses associated with undocumented migrants may apply for relief, FEMA acting senior adviser Michael Lee said.

“We still have some hiccups but I’m confident that working with the board, they’re very receptive,” Lee said.

The agency has already have distributed $26 million in reimbursement funds and on Monday opens another filing period for the additional $110 million that is currently available, he said.

He added that some areas “have received advanced funding.”

Migrant families are seen entering the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley on March 17, 2021, where they receive free food, clothes, shelter and transportation advice. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Organizations like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which help upwards of 600 migrants per day in South Texas, have spent millions since 2014 assisting migrants, its Executive Director Sister Norma Pimentel has told Border Report.

In Laredo, Texas, the nonprofit organization Holding Institute Community Center, is spending over $4,200 in food every three weeks, said Pastor Mike Smith, who runs the center.

“I’ve already bought the burgers and cheeseburgers now I need to get that back,” he said.

His organization had 121 people sleep in their tent and care facility on Sunday night. They had 150 people on Friday night, which is the maximum capacity they can hold, he said.

“We’ve been having to float these costs,” Smith said. “These funds are on a reimbursement basis and so we have been paying attention.”

Information on how to apply for reimbursement funds can be found here.

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