Senator Collins Leads Bipartisan Effort to Restore $1 Billion in Funding for First Responder Grant Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Twenty-two Senators have joined Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) in her efforts to restore funding for the State Homeland Security Grant program, which the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2005 budget proposed to cut by
$1 billion.

The FY ‘05 budget would cut by nearly half the main source of assistance to state and local governments and first responders who are responsible for protecting the nation. It also would eliminate the baseline level of funding to each state, thereby depriving states of a predictable, critical source of funds needed to ensure basic levels of preparedness.

In a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-OK) and Ranking Member Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator Collins and her colleagues wrote, “Communities use these funds for first responder preparation activities, such as emergency planning, risk assessments, mutual aid agreements, equipment, training, and exercises. Reducing the level of funding for the State Homeland Security Grant program would hurt the ability of our first responders to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack.

“While many large cities receive supplemental homeland security funding for urban area security, transportation security, inner city bus security, port security, critical infrastructure security, and metropolitan medical response enhancements, most states and communities receive funding only though the State Homeland Security Grant Program,” the Senators wrote.

The letter continued, “Eliminating the baseline level of funding will make it virtually impossible for states and localities to conduct emergency planning activities since they will not have any idea of how much funding will be available to them next year.”

Senator Collins, whose Committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security, has been a strong advocate for improved homeland security grant programs. Last year, Senator Collins introduced legislation (S. 1245) to streamline the grant process for first responders and provide a predictable, significant level of funding for each state. Her second bill (S. 1612) would ensure that advanced counterterrorism technologies reach the front lines. S. 1245 was unanimously approved in Committee, and the latter bill was unanimously approved by the Senate two weeks ago.

The letter was signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lindsey Graham (R-GA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Sununu (R-NH), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), John Breaux (D-LA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Joe Biden (D-DE), and Jim Jeffords (I-VT).

A copy of the letter appears below.