Congress weighs humanitarian relief bill

$60 million to reimburse communities, nonprofits

SAN ANTONIO – If Congress this week can hammer out any differences between the House and Senate versions of a humanitarian relief bill, $60 million could be used to reimburse communities and nonprofits that have been providing humanitarian aid to asylum-seekers arriving at the border.

Melody Woolsey, director of the San Antonio Department of Human Services, said that, as an example, the city and nonprofits have spent an estimated $600,000 to assist 18,000 arrivals at the Migrant Resource Center.

Numbers provided by the city show it had spent nearly $194,000.

“Those are contingency funds that the city has for these types of emergencies or crisis situations,” Woolsey said.

The city’s nonprofit partners, Catholic Charities, the San Antonio Food Bank and Travis Park Church, spent more than $413,000.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-District 28, said his version of the bill would not be administered by the various border states.

He said, instead, the money would be overseen by a new board associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Cuellar said he included language in the bill requiring that the funds be distributed within 30 days of the bill being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“Then FEMA will reimburse communities and nonprofits,” Cuellar said, based on their applications detailing the expenditures.

But he cautioned that the program, if it comes about as hoped, is new, so the applications and the process involved must be developed quickly.

Cuellar said he expects the House to pass the bill Tuesday before the Senate is expected to vote on Thursday, with a conference committee working out the differences on Wednesday.

Cuellar said he hopes the bill will be ready for the president’s signature by July Fourth.

Expense breakdown provided by the Department of Human Services: 

  • Total direct expenditures by the City: $193,801 (including $141,000 allocated by City Council at mid-year) – as of June 24, 2019.

  • Total direct expenditures by nonprofit partners (Catholic Charities, Food Bank and Travis Park Church): $413,338 – as of June 24, 2019

  • This does not include the cost of staff either volunteering or being deployed to the response. The latest estimate has 11,000 hours from city staff. It also does not include total “in-kind” contributions from nonprofit partners of $201,331 as delineated below:

San Antonio Food Bank (through June 9th)

  • Spent - $112,847.33

  • In Kind/Actual Value of Food Commodities/Meals - $141,296.87

  • Total - $254,144.20

Catholic Charities/Travis Park Church (through June 9th)

  • Spent - $300,491.79

  • In Kind - $60,035.94

  • Total - $360,524.73

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