The District of Columbia will receive $854,980 as its first installment in emergency federal monies to help feed and shelter the city's homeless this summer, enough to serve thousands of needy people through existing programs.
Virginia will get $833,310 and Maryland $714,125 for the same purpose, and the state governments will determine what localities will get the money.
The funds are the area governments' share of $50 million in emergency assistance funds approved by Congress last month as part of its $4.6 billion jobs stimulus legislation. The Federal Emergency Management Administration yesterday announced the allocations, made according to a formula based largely on state population, need and unemployment.
Another $50 million in federal funds is to be distributed nationwide by a board made up of nonprofit volunteer organizations, such as the United Way and Salvation Army. That money will go to local boards, which will give the funds to private voluntary organizations that already run emergency food and shelter programs. The nonprofit board has not yet decided how it will allocate its monies.
The funds to be used by the District and state governments can go either to government programs or to those operated by private voluntary groups, but all of the money must be spent by Sept. 30.
The law states that no more than 2 percent of it can be used for administrative costs, a FEMA official said.
Some local officials and providers were pleasantly surprised by the amount the District is getting from the first half of the federal monies.
"That's good news," said the Rev. John Steinbruck of Luther Place Memorial Church, who is chairman of the mayor's Commission on Homelessness. "If it were in the right hands, it could go a million miles."
City officials will make the final decision on how to spend the money. Steinbruck suggested it could be used for a number of purposes, including keeping the Blair and Pierce shelters for men open through the summer, upgrading the quality of food provided to needy families, or leasing apartment houses for homeless families to get them out of the hotel rooms the city now puts them in.
Both at the local and national level, however, officials had difficulty quantifying how many could be served by the federal funds, saying it would depend on what kind of food and shelter aid is provided.
Col. Ernest Miller of the Salvation Army, a member of the national board of volunteer organizations, emphasized that the funds would be used to supplement existing programs, adding that his group is too busy providing aid to keep track of how many it currently serves.
Lisle C. Carter Jr., the United Way representative on the national board, called the federal emergency aid program "an unprecedented opportunity for a joint government/voluntary sector partnership" in providing for needy people.
The states getting the largest allocations out of the first $50 million were California with $4.6 million and New York with $4.5 million. The District was 19th out of 60 states and territories, Virginia was 20th and Maryland was 22nd.