Tester Urges FEMA to Increase Efforts to Deliver Food to Those in Need

Senators demand Administration ramp up efforts to distribute critical food assistance

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent 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.

“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,” wrote Tester. “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.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act collectively appropriated $850 million to help stock food banks across the country through the United States Department of Agriculture’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 a fraction 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, which has over $79 billion in available balances, including $45 billion appropriated through the CARES Act.

Tester has led the charge to ensure that Montana’s vulnerable populations have the resources they need to stay healthy during the pandemic. Last week, he announced nearly $800,000 in emergency food and shelter resources for vulnerable Montanans and he successfully pressured CMS to update a rule that will level the playing field for seniors and other Montanans without reliable broadband who need access to health care. He recently announced $875,012 in housing pandemic relief funding as well as $5.5 million to provide grants for home-delivered meals, caregiver support, Centers for Independent Living, and other supportive services for seniors and Montanans with disabilities via the Older Americans Act. This funding is part of the overall $1 billion Tester helped secure for seniors across the country in the CARES Act, which was not included in Senator Mitch McConnell’s original legislation.

Leahy and Tester’s full letter is available HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.