‘Don’t hold press conferences’ El Paso food bank clears federal requirements

Local

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A public feud between the city of El Paso and El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank came to a turbulent end on Thursday as the two sides unveiled the result of efforts to resolve an issue over funding from the federal government.

In a tense press conference between the city and the food bank, city officials said the food bank was cleared of federal requirements tied to grant funding it received. Deputy city manager Cary Westin told El Paso media, the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development agency had found the food bank met all requirements needed to satisfy grant requirements from the CARES Act.

The city submitted what is known as a proxy, or a report of the food bank’s use of the funds, to the agency after it became known that the food bank had not met certain standards the federal government was looking for. The issue became public last Thursday when the city and food bank held dueling press conferences over the issue.

Tension over the public dispute spilled over during Thursday’s meeting at City Hall. Stuart Schwartz, a local attorney who spoke for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, was critical of the city’s press conference on Thursday.

“Don’t hold press conferences. don’t hold another side to hold a press conference. None of this should have happened. None of this should have happened this way,” Schwartz said. “It all should have been resolved, it could have been resolved if the party had been able to speak together about it.”

But the city of El Paso’s chief resiliency officer Nicole Ferrini said it was the work of city staff that helped bring the food bank into compliance.

“I think that it’s important to understand, that it is the proxy analysis document that was generated by our team and the work that we did with HUD, that ultimately brought this issue to a close,” she said.

On Oct. 8, the city received a letter from the federal agency saying the food bank was out of compliance with a disbursement of nearly $4 million due to a lack of data. The city was on the hook for reimbursement of the funds if the requirement was not satisfied, according to the letter from HUD.

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