Leahy, Tester Urge FEMA To Increase Efforts To Deliver Food To Those In Need

WASHINGTON (MONDAY, May 11, 2020) – Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee On Homeland Security Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Monday released a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor urging the agency to increase its efforts to deliver food aid to those in need.

The CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act collectively appropriated $850 million to help stock food banks across the country through USDA’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) more than six weeks ago.  However, due to the Trump Administration’s choice to use a cumbersome, bureaucratic system instead of finding innovative solutions in a time of global crisis, only $99 million has been obligated even as the need for food assistance and unemployment rates have dramatically increased. 

The Trump Administration also has an untapped source of funding to provide immediate assistance to food banks through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which has over $79 billion in available balances, including $45 billion appropriated through the CARES Act.

Leahy and Tester wrote:  “We call on FEMA to be more proactive in using all of its authorities and available resources to help accelerate the distribution of food to those in need across the country.  Whether making DRF funding quickly available to distribute food or providing assistance to grow the capacity to distribute food safely, we believe FEMA has the authority and capacity to deliver food to those who need it faster than the cumbersome status quo process being used by USDA. We urge you to coordinate with other agencies, such as USDA and governors, to ensure food assistance is reaching those most in need.”

Leahy and Tester’s full letter is available HERE.

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