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Pima County officials share impact of migrant funding reduction

TUCSON, Ariz. (CBS, KYMA/KECY) - 9,525 migrants entered the Tucson Sector the week of December 21, bringing the grand total, since 2019, to over 360,000 migrants.

County officials started noticing the recent spike, though, since the end of Title 42.

"Every month since May, they have released record numbers. And as that number has risen, the need for our humanitarian partner to balance that has risen as well," said Shane Clark, Director of the Pima County Office of Emergency Management.

To offset costs, the county is using funding from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Shelter Services Program along with funds it has already been using from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program through FEMA.

Operating without federal dollars

Come March 1 though, all funding is set to expire.

"That was a budget decision and program decision that was made at the federal level. We have been writing to Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, since FEMA and CMP are apart of homeland security. We are encouraging him to ask for more money as well."

Jan Jester, County Administrator for Pima County

Currently, organizations, like Casa Alitas, spend $1 million a week, to assist more than 1,100 migrants a day while funds from the Shelter Service Program are only meant to support a maximum of 750 people a day.

However, after February, Casa Alitas may have to operate without federal dollars, bringing down the number of people they can help dramatically.

"They will maintain the staff they can maintain, and the shelters they'll have available to them. Transportation is going to be impacted. The amount of sheltering space is going to be reduced," Clark shared.

A federal issue

With officials anticipating a lower intake at Casa Alitas, the fear of street releases since 2019 may finally be an undesired reality.

District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy says street releases will only add to another significant problem Pima County faces every day.

"We've been battling on another front, Pima County's homeless issue. Imagine what that's going to be like when we have homeless from around the world when they come into Pima County and are released when we already are covered with homeless people of our own."

Steve Christy, District 4 Supervisor for the Pima County Board of Supervisors

County Administrator Lesher says this is strictly a federal issue. While she and many others find solutions to obtain and maintain funding, the county's general fund, paid for by resident taxpayers, will remain intact.

Article Topic Follows: Arizona Politics

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