Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Senate Committee Passes First Responder Grants Bill

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Senate Committee Passes First Responder Grants Bill

Article excerpt

After a brisk debate, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously passed S. 21, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act of 2005, a bill that would alter the distribution formula for first responder grants.

Although senators noted their reservations, they remarked that S. 21, authored by Committee Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), was a compromise between the needs of large- and small- population states.

The amended bill also made an attempt to incorporate the Department of Homeland Security's proposal that the distribution of funds be based on threat as opposed to an all-hazards funding scheme.

"We need to be driven by risk, said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We don't have money to waste," he added.

S. 21 would combine the first responder grants programs and guarantee that all states receive a minimum funding at .55 percent, as compared to the current .75 percent they are receiving.

The remainder of the homeland security funds would be distributed on a sliding scale based on population, population density and risk-based threat, as assessed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Overall, the bill would authorize $2.9 billion in first-responder grants over the next two years.

The bill's distribution formula differs from the Administration's proposal to reduce state homeland security grants from the current .75 percent to .25 percent, guaranteeing each state a minimum funding of $2. …

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