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Norton to introduce bill that would provide humanitarian assistance to migrants bused to DC

FEMA said staff members with its food and shelter program are also talking with more local non-profits and mutual aid groups helping migrants to examine their needs.

WASHINGTON — Editor's note: The above video is from July 19, 2022.

FEMA could possibly assist more groups providing humanitarian services to migrants that are bused into D.C.

Since April, the states of Texas and Arizona have sent a combined 4,000 asylum seekers to the District on chartered buses.

The action of those states has crunched resources in the District.

Migrants have started to enter D.C.’s homeless shelters, according to multiple District officials. While local non-profit organizations like Sanctuary DMV and the DC Mutual Aid Network say their groups have been stressed physically and financially assisting arriving asylum seekers.

Over the weekend, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged the federal government to assist migrants arriving to the capital.

“This is a federal issue that D.C. can't bear on its own,” she said. “We need a federal response.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) assists the work of non-profits that help local governments dealing with influxes of migrants.

The EFSP National Board is the sole recipient of EFSP grant funds from FEMA, according to the agency. The EFSP National Board also has representatives from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army, and United Way Worldwide.

Every local United Way chapter is responsible for passing down funding to non-profits in need, according to FEMA.

That FEMA program has already provided $2.2 million worth of humanitarian funding to SAMU First Response in D.C. and the United Way of the National Capital Area.

On Tuesday, FEMA said staff members with its food and shelter program are also talking with other non-governmental agencies and mutual aid groups in the D.C. area to explore what their needs are and how FEMA’s grant program could possibly assist their work serving migrants.

It is currently unclear the exact organizations FEMA has held discussions within the region.

Either way, some of the local organizations that have already received grant money say they need more.

SAMU First Response told WUSA9 last week the FEMA grant it received has not given the organization enough money to meet the demands of arriving migrants.

A SAMU First Response spokesperson said when the organization first applied for the grant, only one or two buses from Texas and Arizona were arriving to D.C. each day. Now, the organization says there are typically four to five.

Local requests for federal assistance have not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced Tuesday plans to introduce a bill that would provide additional funding for FEMA’s food and shelter program. A press release from Norton’s office said funding from the legislation would be specifically designated for humanitarian assistance to migrants, including those bused to the District by Texas and Arizona.

“The governors of Texas and Arizona are exploiting and harming vulnerable people fleeing desperate and dangerous situations in their home countries for political gain,” Norton said. “I commend the work organizations in D.C. and the National Capital Region have done to assist these migrants, but more funding is needed to assist these families.”

The busing of migrants to D.C. will also be a point of discussion at a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments virtual meeting Friday.

Regional leaders are expected to discuss the best ways to provide a humane response to immigrants seeking asylum in the D.C. area and how to best ensure healthcare access for local immigrant populations.

D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau will chair the meeting. While Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando and Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross will co-chair.

Representatives from SAMU First Response, Montgomery County’s Health and Human Services Department, Mary’s Center, and the Culmore Clinic are also expected to attend.

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