House Slashes Most First Responder Programs
By Laura DeKoven Waxman
June 13, 2011
The House passed the FY 2012 Homeland Security appropriations measure June 2 on a 231-188 vote, with 17 Democrats supporting the bill and 20 Republicans opposing it. The bill would cut FY 2012 funding for state and local homeland security grant programs to $1 billion, more than 50 percent below this year’s level, and would combine the various programs into a single program to be administered at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The House adopted several amendments that make some improvements in first responder programs:
- A bipartisan amendment by Representatives Steven LaTourette (OH) and Bill Pascrell (NJ) that would increase funding for firefighter grants by $320 million, nearly doubling the $350 million included in the bill reported out of Committee, was adopted on a 333-87 vote, with 143 Republicans supporting the amendment. Firefighter grants are funded at $810 million this year.
- An amendment by David Price (NC), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, which would allow firefighter hiring grants (SAFER grants) to be used for retaining firefighters and rehiring laid-off firefighters, in addition to hiring new ones, was adopted, 264-157, with 78 Republicans supporting the amendment.
- An amendment by Representative Hansen Clarke removed the limit on the number of urban areas that can receive UASI funding on a 273-150 vote, with support from 143 Republicans. The Committee bill had restricted such funding to the ten highest risk urban areas.
An amendment offered by Representative David Cicilline (RI), former mayor of Providence, which would have increased funds for state and local homeland security grant funding by $337 million was rejected 154-266.
White House Supports Bill Though Concerned About Funding Cuts
On May 31, the Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy expressing support for the bill, but concern that the bill provides “insufficient funding” for a number of key activities: “While overall funding limits and subsequent allocations remain unclear pending the outcome of ongoing bipartisan, bicameral discussions between the administration and congressional leadership on the nation’s long-term fiscal picture, the bill provides insufficient funding for a number of programs in a way that undermines core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation.”
Regarding state and local programs, the OMB statement says that, “The funding level provided will adversely impact the entire portfolio of preparedness grants to state, local, tribal jurisdictions, and the transportation sector.” It continues, saying, “Although large balances remain available in these programs, state and local governments depend on this funding to support ongoing homeland security prevention and preparedness programs and ensure that all levels of government have the capacity to adequately respond to threats.”
The statement also indicated the Administration’s support and appreciation for “the flexibility given to the Secretary to allocate limited homeland security grant funding to those areas deemed most critical.”