Voucher Program Returns with Minor Adjustment

The Federal Emergency Management Association or FEMA Board has approved the release of $625,382 to four organizations to oversee the Adult Emergency Assistance program, or “voucher program.” The funds will be available for emergencies up to $1,000, beginning in September, through Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, and a new agency to the AEA program, East Cleveland Neighborhood Center.

Despite returning $48,000 between them, both Catholic Charities and Salvation Army will again distribute funds through the program. There will be a $1,000 one-time cap on the allocation to an individual this time, and individuals will only be allowed to receive funds once during the allocation period (one year). Plans have not been finalized on how to police this one-time allocation rule between the four agencies.

The agencies that distributed the funds previously have promised to expand the number of vendors that will accept the vouchers with emergencies ranging from housing, to clothing or transportation, among other things.

In addition, the agencies have agreed to provide better information about the program to clients, and applications will be accepted from a broad spectrum of non-profit agencies.

The program received criticism in its trial run (Grapevine #14) from the Legal Aid Society for mismanagement and the lack of oversight. Bob Bonithius criticized the program as a government block grant to a community with a local non-profit managing the distribution of the program. He was critical with the outcome of this experience.

The Empowerment Center criticized the limits on the program, and the access to the program.

There will be 23 sites available to schedule an appointment to pick up a voucher this time.

The FEMA Board convened a special sub-committee to interview the three providers in the program, the opposition to the program, and a group of recipients. They made recommendations back to the Board, which were debated in a July 19 meeting.

On August 8, the FEMA Board approved the applications from Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, CEOGC, with equal allocations of $200,000 and East Cleveland Neighborhood center with $25,382. The four groups met in late August to coordinate and standardize the application process.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #17, August-September 1996