Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Emergency Food and Shelter Program: Analyzing FEMA’s Supplemental Grant Program Supporting Migrants Crossing the Southwest Border


 As the United States (US) experiences historic levels of migration, local and state governments and non-profit organizations continue to provide critical mass care and sheltering services to support migrants’ immediate needs. 

Guidance has been announced for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 that provides additional funding opportunities via the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023, referencing the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations (DHS) Act, 2022. With this new tranche of funding, which includes specific humanitarian relief opportunities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) will provide support services to migrant families and individuals crossing the Southwest Border encountered by the US DHS. 

EFSP is a federally funded grant program administrated by FEMA to support local social service organizations (government and non-profit) in non-disaster related emergencies and can be used for a broad range of programming assistance such as groceries, first-aid, toiletries, security, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and hotel / motel stays. In total, the program has disbursed over $6.02 billion to over 14,000 local providers in more than 2,500 counties and cities during its 39 years of operation. While the total amount allocated to EFSP in 2023 is yet to be announced, the number is expected to be significant given the demand for assistance. 

While current or former EFSP participation is not a requisite for participation, prioritization will be given to organizations in the Southwest Border states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Additionally, organizations outside of these states will also be prioritized if they are receiving migrants directly from border states and providing humanitarian services to migrants.

Allocation and Application Process 

 The allocation formula for EFSP is determined by using most recent national population, unemployment, and poverty statistics and designates jurisdictions (both cities and counties) with the highest necessity for food and shelter assistance. Local boards of qualifying jurisdictions make award determinations for local recipient organizations providing eligible program services.

 The first application period for the supplemented EFSP funds is open until February 17, 2023, for eligible expenditures incurred on October 1, 2022, through December 31, 2022. There will be three additional application periods throughout FY 2023. The application schedule includes the following information. 

Table 1. Humanitarian Relief Application Schedule (pending funding availability):* 

The process for a Recipient Organization (governmental or non-governmental entity) to receiving EFSP funding is by applying to its Local Board. Each jurisdiction designated for funding must establish a Local Board comprised of representatives of private nonprofit organizations, while also including the highest-ranking local government official, a representative who is or was homeless and a tribal representative (if applicable). Local boards are responsible for advertising the availability of funds; establishing the community’s priority needs; awarding funds to recipient organizations; and monitoring and assisting recipient organizations to ensure they administer funds in accordance with program guidelines.

 Once the Local Board approves, the National Board, composed of representatives from six private nonprofit organizations can disburse funds directly to Recipient Organizations. 

Eligible and Ineligible Program Services

Eligible Program Services

EFSP supplements the ongoing work of local social service organizations, both nonprofit and governmental, to provide shelter, food, and supportive services to individuals, families, and households who are experiencing, or at risk of, hunger and/or homelessness.

The ESFP program guidance recognizes five categories for eligible expenditures. Eligible costs include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • Primary Services (e.g., food, shelter); 
  • Secondary Services (e.g., health/medical services, including COVID-19 testing); 
  • Administrative Services (e.g., staffing, shelter management, casework); 
  • Equipment and Assets Services (e.g., necessary renovations to agency-owned facilities such as bathrooms and showers); and 
  • Transportation Services (e.g., taxi, bus, air, train). 

Ineligible Services

For FY 2023, local, private, or public organizations that receive the specifically allocated EFSP Humanitarian Relief Funding may not receive reimbursement for the following services/expenditures: 

  • Humanitarian relief provided to families and individuals encountered by DHS but provided outside of an eligible timeframe.
  • Expenditures incurred outside of the eligible spending periods (see Table 1).
  • Contracts for services improperly procured (e.g., not in alignment with program guidance or not authorized by the Local Board and National Board). 
  • Expenditures made outside of the US. 
  • Services provided to families and individuals outside of the US. 

EFSP requires specific data and documentation to substantiate expenses and link eligible expenditures to migrant support under the program.

Stay Tuned 

In the coming weeks and months, we will provide additional guidance and best practices surrounding the use of this EFSP financial assistance.


David Schuld is a Deputy Director of Preparedness Programs at Hagerty Consulting. David joined Hagerty in 2014 and has become a leading subject matter expert of best practices in security and threat management issues. 

 Kristin Samulkewitsch is a Managing Associate at Hagerty and has more than eight years of experience in emergency management and disaster recovery programs. Prior to Hagerty, she served as an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) member supporting volunteer coordination, planning, and recovery associated with incidents ranging from local house fires to multi-jurisdictional tropical storms and hurricanes.