The federal government is directing $250,000 to South Dakota to help people with food or shelter in emergencies. That is the same amount the state usually receives from FEMA. The grant money can be used for problems housing and food problems that aren’t related to disasters.
FEMA distributes Emergency Food and Shelter Program money based on a state’s current unemployment, food insecurity and poverty data. In South Dakota, that equates to the minimum amount FEMA can provide a state.
Matt Gassen is the executive director of Feeding South Dakota. He’s also the chair for the committee that decides which organizations get money from the FEMA grant. Gassen says FEMA has narrow guidelines that determine how groups can use the federal funding.
"It really centers around being able to provide people in need with food, shelter in the form of rent assistance, pay for a motel if a motel if they’re in crisis," Gassen says. "It may be, in some cases, about providing utility assistance."
Gassen says the state committee doles out between $2,800 and $20,000 depending on the organization. He says committee members try to spread the emergency assistance money across South Dakota. Gassen says the money is critical but doesn’t meet the need.
"You know, we know that within South Dakota alone, that just from a hunger standpoint – now we’re not talking those people that are struggling to find shelter, don’t have monies for utilities and all that – but just hunger alone, that we’re missing about 16 million meals a year in South Dakota. The dollar figure that equates to that is, you know, tens of millions of dollars that it would take to close that gap on hunger alone," Gassen says.
Gassen says it’s cliché but every little bit helps. He says the FEMA money supports organizations that assist people in surviving unexpected crises that leave them at risk of losing their homes or not having enough food for their families.