FEMA’s emergency grant program gets $100 million, but where’s oversight?

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The Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that it’s giving $100 million of stimulus funds to the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program — an organization that supplements emergency social service groups. It seems like a pretty legitimate use of the funds: The homeless setting up tent cities in California sure could use emergency housing, and food banks have fielded increasing demand for months. But the EFSP, a grant program overseen by FEMA, is just a little bit short-staffed, according to a recent report by DHS’s Inspector General.

“Staff within the Emergency Food and Shelter Program declined from six in 1997 to one in 2008,” the report said. “According to FEMA program officials, this decline led to a significant decrease in financial and program monitoring. Having one staff member responsible for both monitoring activities reduces FEMA’s ability to ensure the appropriate use of grant funds.”

There is no plan to add supplemental staffing to the program, according to Sara Kuban, a department spokesperson, who says that FEMA has a “well-experienced, trained staff person” working on the program and that the administration of the additional grant money follows the same protocols as the year-round program. So as far as we can tell, that one employee just got a whole lot more work — about $100 million more.

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