Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC, Allies Fight to Restore Public Safety Grants

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC, Allies Fight to Restore Public Safety Grants

Article excerpt

A major lobbying effort is underway by NLC and a diverse group of allies to restore crucial public safety funding--and Capitol Hill is taking notice.

The coalition of law enforcement, social welfare and prevention groups, and representatives of state and local government formed in response to severe cuts in the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, In more than 30 meetings with a diverse group of senators, representatives and White House officials, the coalition was able to get real commitments for restoring funding to this crucial grant program.

Byrne grants are a major source of funding for enforcement, prevention and intervention to communities across our country. Grants fund drug task forces that have been critical in fighting gangs and drug trafficking. Byrne funding also goes to help pay for important policing technology and crime prevention programs. Major innovations in crime control are also the direct result of Byrne, including drug courts, juvenile justice initiatives and prisoner reentry programs,

The Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill cut the Byrne Grant program at the Department of Justice by 67 percent, from $520 million in 2007 to $170 million in 2008, an all-time low.

In response, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) held a press conference to call on Congress to increase funding for the Byrne Grant program to $660 million.

Since 2002, Byrne Grant funding has been cut from $900 to the current $170 million. In last year's budget, the White House Office of Management and Budget sought to terminate the entire program.

"Let me tell you what it means for my state, a big state with 37 million people," Feinstein said. "Fifty drug and gang task forces around my state may go out of business. …

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