The Senate today passed the Fiscal Year 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Bill which funds the Department of Homeland Security for the coming year. The legislation included increased funding sought by Senate Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins for critical grant programs that were cut in the President’s proposed budget.
Senator Collins said, “Our nation’s law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency medical service providers, and emergency managers rely on critical federal grant programs to protect and safeguard us from terrorist attacks and natural disasters. By funding these programs at or above fiscal year 2008 levels, the Senate has sent a strong message of support to these brave first responders.”
The legislation funds the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) at $950 million for the coming year. SHSGP provides funding to state and local governments for homeland security-related planning, training, equipment, and exercises. This past year, Maine received $6.1 million under this program.
The bill also funds the Operation Stonegarden grant program at $60 million for the coming year. These federal grants can be used for personnel, equipment, and vehicle costs associated with joint federal-state border enforcement operations. This past year, Maine received $5 million of the funding.
The legislation contains the full $400 million authorized by the SAFE Port Act, which Senator Collins co-authored, for port security grants. Maine received $1.7 million in port security grants this year.
The appropriations bill includes $50 million for grants to improve interoperable radio communications for first responders. This grant program was established by Senator Collins and Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) in a homeland security law last year.
The legislation also includes $565 million for FIRE Act grants, an increase of $5 million from last year, which will provide local fire departments the ability to purchase new equipment and initiate education and training programs.
Finally, the appropriations bill funds the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Bombing Prevention at $11 million — $1 million more than last year. Senator Collins has consistently advocated for increasing the budget of this office that leads the Department’s efforts to prevent a terrorist explosive attack. The office promotes counter-IED security planning, information sharing, and training programs.