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Is More Money Going to Big City First Responders?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced approximately $100 million from the fiscal year 2003 budget will be dedicated to help large urban areas prepare for terrorist threats.

The money is in addition to the $566 million that Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) allocated last month for first responder needs such as equipment, training, planning, and exercises.

But it isn't clear just how the money will get to the cities, according to Alan Caldwell, director of government relations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

"ODP money has always gone through the states," he commented. "How are they going to write checks to cities I don't know how this is going to work."

The government chose the cities by applying a formula based upon a combination of factors, including population density, critical infrastructure, and a threat/vulnerability assessment.

The cities selected and the amounts awarded are:

  • New York City: $24.76 million:
  • Washington, D.C./National Capital Region: $18.08 million
  • Los Angeles: $12.42 million.
  • Seattle: $11.2 million;
  • Chicago: $10.89 million;
  • San Francisco: $10.74 million;
  • Houston: $8.63 million.

Caldwell expressed another concern about first responder funding. IAFC prefers that federal money go directly to first responders, and for this reason the organization favors a grant program under the Fire Act that until now was administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"It looks like FEMA has lost the Fire Act," said Caldwell. In fiscal year 2004, the president has proposed transferring the grant program to FEMA's rival, ODP. "We're very concerned about moving a program form a place that we know works, to a place we're not sure of." Caldwell hopes that the new managers will not change the way the program works.

On the other hand, the administration has asked for $500 million in fiscal year 2004, the first time the administration has proposed funding the program. This year, Congress appropriated $750 million for the program.

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