Stanislaus County social service providers, which have been swamped by people seeking help with food, shelter and utilities, will be getting some long-delayed help.
They should receive their federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program grants in mid-November, about six months after they typically receive the annual funding.
This is the second straight year the funding has been late. Congressional delays in passing the federal budget held up last year's funding by about six months. The reasons behind this year's delay were not available Wednesday.
This also is the second straight year that funding has been cut for Stanislaus County. The federal government had been awarding $200 million to social service agencies nationwide. But Congress cut funding to $120 million last year and kept it at that level this year.
Stanislaus County can expect to be awarded $385,787. This is the fifth year in 21 years in which the county has received less than $400,000. Just two years ago, the county received $566,683.
The EFSP grants can be used for food, shelter and utility payments and to help people with their rent or mortgage payments. Some social service providers have reported huge spikes in requests for assistance.
"This is a very difficult time for individuals and families in our area," said Rebecca Ciszek, Stanislaus regional manager for the American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter, who oversees the program here. "The need is so great. These organizations are seeing new populations families that are working two or three jobs but are still struggling and can't pay all their bills."
Funds for 21 providers
Ciszek said 21 social service providers will receive funding this year. She declined to say how much each will get until she receives official confirmation. She expects that soon, and that the providers will be awarded funding by mid-November.
While Stanislaus County is receiving less money than in past years, Ciszek said, it had its funding cut by a smaller percentage than more affluent counties. EFSP funding is allocated based on counties' population, unemployment and poverty rates.
Stanislaus is a leader in the last two categories, with a 13.5 percent unemployment rate, nearly three percentage points higher than the state rate, and a poverty rate of 23.8 percent, nearly seven percentage points higher than the state rate.
Ciszek said this year's funding is for the fiscal year of Dec. 1 through Nov. 30. But she said she expects the EFSP National Board to give social service providers until March 30 to spend the money. The providers can use the funds to reimburse themselves for money they have spent.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.