Homeland Security Department Spends Millions of Taxpayer Dollars to Feed and Shelter the Poor and Homeless

By Susan Jones | October 1, 2010 | 10:13 AM EDT

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. (CNSNews.com file photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency created by President George W. Bush to keep the nation safe from terrorists, also spends millions of taxpayer dollars helping hungry and homeless people in "communities impacted by unemployment."

DHS announced on Thursday that it has handed out $2.6 billion in stimulus funding since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law on Feb. 17, 2009.

Nearly $100 million of that money was distributed through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to more than 10,450 local organizations across the country to provide "immediate relief to communities impacted by unemployment."

DHS says funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program can be used for a broad range of services, including mass shelter; mass feeding; food distribution through food pantries and food banks; one-month assistance with rent; mortgage and utility payments to prevent evictions; and transition assistance from shelters to stable living conditions.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was created in 1983 to help meet the needs of hungry and homeless people throughout the United States and its territories. It now falls under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which in turn is part of the Homeland Security Department.

"DHS Recovery Act projects are creating new jobs and injecting money into local economies while making America safer,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a Sept. 30 news release, which also touted the following DHS "accomplishments":

-- Awarded more than $205 million to over 100 recipients to build or modify existing fire stations;

-- Awarded $72 million in Transportation Security Grants to support capital projects, including security enhancements to high-density tunnels, stations, and bridges.

-- Awarded $78 million in Transportation Security Grants to fund approximately 240 new law enforcement officers at 15 transit systems across the country.

-- Awarded $150 million in Port Security Grants to approximately 220 recipients to protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, and support a new, tamper-resistant biometric credential issued to workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports and vessels.

-- Awarded nearly $1 billion for baggage handling systems at 25 airports, closed circuit television at 14 airports and various screening technologies for nationwide deployment (including so-called body scanners).

-- Awarded $142 million for bridge alteration construction projects in Iowa, Illinois, Texas and Alabama -- "helping to facilitate safe and efficient navigation along the Nation’s waterways."

-- Awarded almost $90 million for tactical communications equipment and infrastructure to modernize land mobile-radio communication systems along the northern and southern borders.

-- Awarded more than $18 million for Southwest border security technology, including 10 mobile vehicle inspection systems, 104 pursuit camera systems, 78 thermal imaging devices, and 3 aerial observation cameras.

Small business readiness program

Napolitano on Thursday also announced the development of a "readiness certification program" for small businesses.

"Ensuring America's small businesses have the critical information and training they need to better respond to disasters will strengthen the entire nation's preparedness and resilience," Napolitano said.

DHS has published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on PS-Prep, which stands for Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program. The first-of-its-kind voluntary partnership between DHS and the private sector was recommended by the federal 9-11 Commission.

PS-Prep allows small businesses to receive emergency preparedness certification from DHS. The certification means they are trained to respond to disasters and have a plan to continue operating.