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Corner Office from Marketplace

Cities and counties rely on Homeland Security dollars

Nova Safo Feb 27, 2015
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Some local government agencies could be adversely affected if funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires at the end of the day on Friday.

Congress is considering dueling proposals from the House and Senate to fund DHS. The House has proposed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the agency for three weeks, while the Senate proposed funding the department for the remainder of the fiscal year through September.

Many in local governments around the country are concerned, because some of the money that flows into DHS flows out to local agencies. It is spent on everything from emergency operations centers to firefighters’ salaries.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says money from DHS grants could be delayed, if the agency shuts down, “because the approval process is done manually, and some of the personnel involved in those grant programs may actually be furloughed.”

Philadelphia’s mayor says the city can weather delays in funding, but smaller counties and cities are less flexible, according to Yejin Jang, associate legislative director at the National Association of Counties.

“Some counties are looking at contingency plans and plan to lay off some people. They are also planning to cancel some trainings and exercises,” if full year’s funding isn’t restored soon, says Jang.

There is also a difference in what DHS can do under a continuing resolution, which funds the department short term, versus a full year’s funding authorization.

DHS has already been operating under a continuing resolution for the last five months, and that’s meant new grant applications cannot be processed.

“DHS is only going to be able to move forward with their grant activities if they are fully funded for the fiscal year,” Jang says.

Take FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which in 2003 was folded into DHS. A continuing resolution complicates some of its grant making processes, according to Susan Hendrick, FEMA’s press secretary.

“A lack of a full-year appropriation complicates FEMA’s ability to disburse a wide array of preparedness grant funds over the remainder of the fiscal year,” Hendrick said in a written statement to Marketplace. “Without the matching federal grants, our state, local, and tribal partners may face difficult choices about how they will make ends meet or curtail their activities.”

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