Tom Ridge to Mayors: Money is Waiting

At the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge admitted that $4.6 billion dollars in homeland response funding sits untapped with the federal government.

"Now, I expect that you all want it, you could all use it, there's a need for it," Ridge told the mayors. "The federal government has authorized and appropriated these dollars and unfortunately, those dollars cannot be accessed" because of legislation that only allows it to be used to reimburse communities and states for money already spent.

However, spending money on homeland response efforts and then waiting for reimbursement from the federal government isn't a great solution, Ridge admitted. "It's obviously pretty difficult to do when you've got a cash flow problem," he said, noting that when the economy is sluggish, city revenues often are down.

A recommendation made by Akron, Ohio Mayor Donald Plusquellic and the State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) was to give cities and states a year to break the maze of state regulations and laws and local ordinances to tap into the $4.6 billion.

Until then, said Ridge, "the particular provision that restricts access to [the funds] based on your ability to simply be reimbursed has been waived for the '05 funding. The dollars will be streamed into your communities, I believe, much more quickly this year than it has in previous years."

Ridge encouraged the mayors "to do whatever is necessary" to access the $4.6 billion.

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