That spending, which amounts to $3.1 billion per year, is used to attend for children in facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after they’ve been transferred from Border Patrol. Those costs are expected to surge dramatically over the next months, according to a Washington Post study.
That's about four times the $760 million FY2020 budget for the Small Business Administration, and four times a similar amount given to the SBA that year to help small businesses getting drowned by the COVID-19 epidemic.
The administration has immediately set up 10 emergency shelters with 16,000 temporary beds for migrant children in convention centers and repurposed oil worker camps and military bases. HHS had quickly filled up the 7,700 beds in its network of durable shelters, where the cost of care comes out to $290 per child, according to the Post analysis.
As for now, 8,500 children are staying in pop-up sites, and 4,000 more are waiting to be carried from border facilities.
But the cost of housing children at emergency sites is much higher than more permanent shelters, according to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for HHS’s Administration for Children and Families. He said the daily cost of caring for a child there is "approximately $775 per day based on past experience."
Teens and children spend an average of 31 days in HHS custody before they are released to a vetted family member or a sponsor, according to HHS data. That’s about $24,000 for each minor held at facilities, without including time spent in Border Patrol care.
Calls to the Biden administration have increased as pictures and videos emerged from the Donna facility of the then-more-than 4,000 migrants in custody packed in "pods." Each pod contained 500-600 migrants. Guidelines say there should only be 32 migrants in each pod.
While single adults, and some migrant family units can be expelled via Title 42 health protections implemented during the Trump administration, the Biden administration has not sought to extend that policy to unaccompanied children.
Last week, Fox News confirmed that CBP is predicting that as many as 184,000 unaccompanied children could reach the border in the fiscal year 2021.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday became the latest Republican to come out against his state housing unaccompanied minors who have arrived at the southern border.
"From a humanitarian standpoint, it's a crisis," he said, according to the newspaper. "From a public health standpoint, it's a crisis. It's a national security crisis when they arrest terrorists on our list coming from Yemen."