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Information on Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program.

Every year the federal government will provide local non-profits and charities with grants as part of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. While the money originates from FEMA, the funds can be used for a wide variety of needs. Most of the non-profits that receive the grants will provide the money to people from the community that are at risk. The program, known as EFSP for short, can help pay for food, housing costs (including rent and mortgage), utilities, and much more.

The federal program is administered by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is run in partnership with several national charities and non-profits. For example, the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities, and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., as well as the United Way, all play a leading role. They help disburse funding to non-profits and ensure all of the program terms are closely followed. The groups work to supplement and expand ongoing efforts to provide food, shelter, and other supportive services to the hungry, working poor, and homeless. Funding for this program varies widely by state and county. It can also change throughout the year and is offered on a first come first serve basis. Also, if the federal government doesn't offer any grants in a certain year, then the program will not operate.

The funds issued by the government are targeted at hard hit communities. So those towns, cities, and counties that have high rates or poverty, unemployment, or homelessness will tend to receive more aid. After all, one of the main goals of EFSP is to prevent homelessness and hunger.

The primary objectives of the program are below. Grants and funds are used to provide the following housing and nutrition services to the needy and people that qualify. As determined by the Local Board or non-profits that oversee the program in each jurisdiction, money can be used for the following.

  • For people facing eviction or foreclosure, receive up to one month's rent, mortgage, and/or utility bill payment assistance.
  • Free food, in the form of groceries or served meals.
  • Transportation expenses associated with the provision of food or shelter, and this can include programs such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Lodging in a motels, including vouchers, or mass shelters.
  • The currently homeless may receive grants to pay for moving costs or a security deposit. In some cases there may even be enough money to pay for a portion of a new tenants first months rent.

Emergency Food and Shelter Program may help pay for energy costs. When funds are available, the program can assist with paying natural gas and electric utilities, heating oil, and partial bulk fuel payments. In some instances, local non-profits may offer help with water bill and sewer payments or an utility reconnection deposit. In many cases a minimal amount of a copay is necessary from the customer to pay to the complete bill.





Each local non-profit will have its own terms and conditions in place. They include reviewing the applicant's income. In addition, any people seeking help in general must have exhausted all other resources such as LIHEAP, utility company payment plans, and other resources before applying for EFSP.

Homeless prevention is also provided. So the non-profits may help qualified families with paying a portion of their back rent or home mortgage. At most, only one months worth of expenses will be paid. Case managers can also provide advice on preventing an eviction and getting back on track with timely rent payments as part of EFSP.

Please do keep in mind that source of funding is an annual, federal appropriation that is issued from Congress to the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. So it is very limited and the resources offered will fluctuate widely from one year to the next.

However, when it is available, the funds are vital for many local non-profit agencies and charities. They provide needed emergency shelter and food options for low income citizens who are experiencing tough times in this challenging economy. Many qualified agencies take part to help as many people as possible meet the basic needs of the less fortunate.

For an organization to be considered to take part in the FEMA emergency food and shelter program, they need to meet some or all of the following conditions. The site needs to be a private, non-profit organization or unit of government, practice non-discrimination, have demonstrated the ability to deliver emergency food and/ or shelter in the past, and have a volunteer board of directors. Some of the more common groups that participate include the Salvation Army, community action agencies, and the United Way.

Applying for and looking into ESG grants

To find out if this program operates in your county, families can inquire at local non-profits, such as those indicated above. This can include Salvation Army centers, a community action agency, or some of the other agencies specified. Find a listing of state and county assistance programs.


By Jon McNamara














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