Rio Grande Valley cities, nonprofits to be reimbursed for money spent on migrants

7 months 2 weeks 5 minutes ago Tuesday, April 20 2021 Apr 20, 2021 April 20, 2021 7:07 AM April 20, 2021 in News - Local

More than $114 million in COVID-19 relief funds will be used to reimburse cities and groups for money spent on migrants.

A record number of immigrants have crossed the border since in the start of this year.

"It's been challenging, but the folks on the ground have been able to do their work,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) said. “This is not the first rodeo as we always say."

And once again, local nonprofits along the southwest border have been providing aid.

"On food alone, we probably spend like $4,200 easily every three weeks just food, just food,” said Pastor Mike Smith with the Holding Institute- Laredo.

But this time around, COVID-19 has added additional challenges, increasing spending across the board for nonprofits and local governments.

"That really includes everything from sheltering, feeding, respite, transportation, wrap-around services, and in some cases, some of the COVID-19related care," said Michael Lee, a FEMA representative. “From a government perspective, a lot of the time it might be transportation, in some cases it's testing, could be putting folks in hotels."

"We've been having to float for the past few months and most NGO's and most shelters are not able to float that long," Smith said.

On Monday, the reimbursement process for these groups began with the application period for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, or EFSP, now open. More than $110 million are available through the EFSP National Board's American Rescue Plan funding.

"We went with this quarterly system so NGO's and local agencies wouldn't have to shoulder the expenses for an extravagant amount of time,” Lee said.

During the first quarter application period, nonprofits and local governments can ask for reimbursement for expenses from January 1 through March 31.

The city of McAllen issued a statement saying they would explore all options available via federal agencies for reimbursement of expenses related to providing services for the migrant asylum-seekers.

The city of Brownsville is also considering this option.

"Our objective is not to save money, it's to ensure that the jurisdictions and local agencies have the funding they need to really perform this critical mission," Lee said.

No exact timeline was given when asked how long it would take for nonprofits and local governments to be reimbursed. But Lee says they're hoping this new application process makes reimbursements quicker.

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