Mayor Adams’ administration finally submitted a request for federal migrant aid late last month just days ahead of an application deadline for the emergency funding.
The application, filed on March 29 by Adams budget director Jacques Jiha, asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $650 million to reimburse the city for costs incurred from sheltering and providing services for tens of thousands of migrants between last July and Feb. 28.
Jiha’s submission came just four days before an April 2 deadline to apply for the funds, which are coming from FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter humanitarian program. The program started accepting applications on March 3 from cities across the country that are caring for the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived in the U.S. since last spring in hopes of seeking asylum.
In December, Congress allocated $800 million for FEMA to reimburse local governments that are coming under financial strain from the migrant crisis. However, the Emergency Food and Shelter program is only offering up $350 million of that allocation for the first round of funding for which the Adams administration submitted an application.
In his application, a copy of which was obtained by The News, Jiha wrote that Adams’ administration should be awarded the FEMA program’s entire $350 million allocation. In addition, Jiha urged FEMA to fork over an additional $300 million to bankroll the roughly $654 million he said the city had spent on migrant crisis-related expenses through the end of February. Jiha did not specify how he believes FEMA should source the additional funds.
“While the city continues to honor its obligation to provide support to thousands of asylum seekers, it cannot shoulder an ongoing massive and unexpected burden on its own without substantial risk to its financial stability,” Jiha wrote in the application, which was addressed to Assistant FEMA Administrator Melissa Forbes.
“Because this is a crisis of national origin that is directly related to federal law and policy, the city respectfully asks that FEMA provide resources as described in this application.”
A spokesman for Adams said Monday that the mayor’s office has not heard back from FEMA since filing the application. FEMA spokesman Jeremy Edwards said a national board set up by his agency expects to decide by May 31 how to award the first $350 million funding tranche. It remains unclear how soon FEMA plans to start accepting applications for the remaining $450 million in migrant relief allocated by Congress.
To date, Adams’ administration has received only $8 million in federal migrant funding even though New York is among a handful of cities hardest hit by the crisis. In a letter to President Biden this past Friday, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Finance Committee Chairman Justin Brannan pledged their “unequivocal support” for the mayor’s FEMA application and urged the commander-in-chief to see to it that the request is promptly processed.
“The level of additional costs that we have borne to support this significant addition to our population has impacted the city, and federal support is essential,” the two Council Democrats wrote.
Word of the Adams administration’s FEMA application comes as the city continues to shell out some $5 million a day on accommodating migrants, most of whom are from Latin America and fled poverty and violence in their home countries.
Jiha noted in his FEMA application that the requested $650 million would only cover a portion of what the city has already spent. With more than 32,000 asylum seekers currently in its care, the Adams administration has already spent more than $800 million on the crisis, and the mayor’s budget team says that figure is likely to balloon to $1.4 billion by July 1.
By July 1, 2024, Jiha wrote, the administration is on track to have spent $4.3 billion. Amid the enormous financial burden, Adams has recently ordered budget cuts at a variety of city agencies, arguing that belt-tightening is required to hedge against the growing migrant crisis tab. Adams’ austerity measures have drawn backlash from Democrats in the Council, who say the cuts would prove disastrous for agencies servicing low-income New Yorkers, like the Social Services Department, which is already failing to process most food stamp and cash assistance benefit applications on time.
Council Dems have also recently questioned Adams’ handling of the migrant crisis, saying some of the ways his administration shelters migrants is costlier than necessary. In addition, Speaker Adams, of Queens, and her Democratic colleagues have as part of budget negotiations with the mayor maintained the city is in a better fiscal state than he claims.
“The city’s economy is resilient, and we remain optimistic about our future,” the speaker and Brannan, of Brooklyn, wrote in their letter to Biden. “Yet these costs, together with the intersecting financial challenges from expiring federal COVID stimulus funds and a delayed impact of the pandemic on our economy and recovery, present a fiscal strain on our city. Federal funding and support for the city, including fulfillment of our reimbursement application recently submitted, are essential and urgent.”