TUCSON, Ariz. — Pima County leaders have filed a request to use additional federal funds to help migrant asylum seekers.
Operation Stonegarden money is mainly used to pay for overtime and equipment costs when local law enforcement agencies help with border security.
But now, the county has applied for additional funds to help them care for migrant children and families already across the border.
The County was originally planning on asking for $200,000 for humanitarian aid. But that was when county officials assumed they wouldn't be the ones to cover the cost of housing the migrants, once they are moved from the Benedictine Monastery at the end of the month.
Now that they will be housed at the vacant Juvenile Detention Center, the amount the county is asking for is $530,000.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry filed the request with the Arizona Department of Homeland Security on July 11.
"I think this is the first time any county in the United States has applied to use these funds for this purpose," he said.
He says a FEMA Information Bulletin filed last November expands the use of funds.
The Bulletin he's referring to, No. 436, allows for grant funding related to the reimbursement of costs related to providing humanitarian relief to unaccompanied children and adults with children.
In May, Huckelberry was looking into the possibility of the county applying for humanitarian aid. A FEMA spokesperson provided KGUN9 with a statement that reads in part:
'Although humanitarian costs are allowable under OPSG [Operation Stonegarden], they are not mandatory nor guaranteed.'
If the grant is approved, the county is looking to cover costs related to facility modifications at the Juvenile Detention Center, medical supplies, food costs, maintenance, and more.
The proposed modifications at the vacant Juvenile Detention Center alone run close to $70,000.
Huckelberry says it could be several more weeks until the federal approval processes are completed.
The county is applying for at least three other federal grants to help cover costs for asylum seekers.