The checks finally should be in the mail for 21 Stanislaus County social service providers, which for the second straight year have faced a lengthy delay in getting federal money to help people with food, shelter and utilities.
The national board of the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program sent e-mails Thursday to local EFSP boards across the nation officially announcing that $120 million in funds had been awarded.
Social service agencies typically receive their EFSP funds in the spring. But they did not receive funding until October last year. They should receive this year's funds in about two weeks.
The 21 agencies ranging from Haven Women's Shelter and The Salvation Army in Modesto to Riverbank Christian Food Sharing will receive $385,787. This is the fifth year in 21 years in which the county has received less than $400,000. Just two years ago, Stanislaus County social service providers received $566,683.
The federal government had been awarding $200 million annually to social service agencies nationwide, but Congress cut funding to $120 million last year and kept it at that level this year.
Congressional delays in passing the federal budget held up last year's funding by about six months. It's not clear why funding was delayed this year, but the EFSP's national board reviewed and revamped its policies and procedures this year, said Rebecca Ciszek, Stanislaus regional manager for the American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter, who oversees the program here.
Ciszek said Friday that she will notify Stanislaus County's local EFSP board of the funding awards Monday and send out award letters to the 21 providers. She expects they could have their money in a couple of weeks.
The EFSP grants can be used for food, shelter and utility payments and to help people with their rent or mortgage payments. Though the grants do not make up a large part of the providers' budgets, the money can be critical during a time of increased demand for services.
Ciszek said the funding is for the fiscal year of Dec. 1 through Nov. 30. But she said she expects the EFSP's 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.
Stanislaus County is receiving less money than in past years, but 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.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.