Lack of Transparency and Financial Costs
Pima County, located in the Tucson Sector, has been denied a second request for an extension to spend the remaining $5.2 million for Fiscal Year 22 under the Emergency Food and Shelter Program-Humanitarian (ESFP-H). Despite the increased arrivals to the border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied the extension, causing concerns about revenue deficits and an earlier fiscal cliff for the county.
Increased Costs and Financial Impact
The financial costs to Pima County have significantly risen due to the recent surge in arrivals. For instance, the county’s monthly expenses to serve asylum seekers have increased by 43.29% between June and October 2023. Costs for food have seen a staggering 293% increase, while transportation costs have risen by 95% during the same period.
Unanswered Questions and Inconsistent Actions
Pima County has handled over $65 million in ESFP-H awards and has acted as a fiscal agent for other entities in the sector. The denial of the extension has raised questions about the transparency and consistency of the decision-making process. Congressman Ruben Gallego, expressing his concerns, states that the lack of explanation is unacceptable.
Response from DHS and Future Plans
In response to queries, DHS explained that the decision was made by an independent board, which had previously extended the spending period for all subrecipients but chose not to make additional extensions. The board’s decision impacted Pima County’s request, and no other agencies have requested extensions.
Returning Funds and Planned Expenditure
Pima County has informed the board that the remaining funds from FY22 will be returned. The county plans to spend the $26 million in FY23 funding before utilizing the $11 million in SSP funding.
Border Crisis and Funding Negotiations
The denial of the extension comes at a time when the border is witnessing a new wave of migrants, with daily apprehension numbers exceeding 10,000. In Washington D.C., lawmakers are in talks over a funding package, which includes provisions for the border, aid to Ukraine, and aid to Israel. The White House had requested $14 billion, including funding for border communities, but Republicans are pushing for the inclusion of asylum limits in any potential agreement.