Sens. Collins, Lieberman Seek to Improve Grant Process for First Responders

WASHINGTON – Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and the Committee’s Ranking Member Joe Lieberman (D-CT) announced today that the committee will hold a series of hearings beginning in April to examine ways to improve the federal government’s myriad homeland security grant programs for first responders. The committee will hear from state and local officials and first responders who need help in their efforts to bolster the nation’s security.

“Given the nation’s high state of alert, we must significantly improve the grant process, which local officials have said is too complex and too inflexible. We also must ensure that first responders are trained and equipped to do what they do best — protect our communities. Just as first responders stand by to protect our communities, they deserve a federal government that stands by them,” Collins said Thursday.

“The first responders who rush to disaster scenes, risking life and limb in order to protect the rest of us, deserve all the help they can get from the federal government,” Lieberman said. “I am working overtime to increase spending for the hiring, training, and equipping of first responders. If communities are struggling to make sense of how to access this money, then the federal government is standing in the way, rather than aiding their efforts.”

On March 1, 2003, Secretary Ridge integrated 22 agencies into the Department of Homeland Security. Much of the President’s proposed $3.5 billion in homeland security funding for states and local first responders is to be consolidated within the new department. In addition to securing sufficient resources, Collins and Lieberman plan to use the information gained from the committee hearings to ensure that these grant programs meet the needs of the nation’s first responders.

“We need to make sure that we’re getting the right amount of money to the right people at the right time,” Collins said.