Congressional Appropriators Side with NLC, Local First Responders on DHS Grants

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Over the past week, both the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations marked up legislation that would reject a proposal from the Administration to consolidate 16 targeted homeland security grants into one state-centric grant program called the National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP).  For the National League of Cities, our members, and first responders across the nation, this is good news.  By rejecting a plan that would have shifted homeland security grants from local preparedness and response activities to statehouses, DHS will need to enter into a more extensive dialogue with first responders and local governments regarding the future of this ongoing intergovernmental partnership that helps keep our nation secure.

Proposed in the President’s FY 2013 budget, NPGP would only require states to only pass funding to high-threat urban areas.  The remainder of the funds—of which more than 80 percent is currently required to be “passed through” to local jurisdictions—would have gone to the state to be distributed based on state and national threat and risk assessments. This includes grants for transit and port security, urban search and rescue, metropolitan medical response, pre-disaster mitigation grants, and a number of other standalone programs that targeted funds at specific threats.  No requirements existed for local participation in the risk assessment or the decision-making process for distribution.

Since the consolidation was proposed, NLC and its allies have been meeting with key stakeholders in Congress and the Administration urging a more inclusive and deliberative approach to reform that includes the voices of local governments and first responders.  Meetings with FEMA did not provide NLC enough detail to ensure the needs of localities would be met under NPGP.  After a series of meetings and numerous letters to both Congress and the Administration, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed with NLC and rejected the proposal in their spending bills.

The House Committee on Appropriations cited lack of detail from DHS and insufficient stakeholder engagement as reasons for rejecting the proposal in their committee report (p. 113), and Senator Landrieu (D-LA), Chair of the Committee on Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security, stated similar concerns in her opening statement (discussion of the grant programs begin at the ~70 min and 30 sec mark).

NLC appreciates the House and Senate Appropriators’ efforts to ensure that the Administration takes a deliberative, inclusive approach to state and local grant reform that includes working directly with local stakeholders.  We all want to ensure future reform guarantees local governments the tools to prevent, respond to, and mitigate against all hazards.  This means putting first responders first, and ensuring preparedness grants do not become lost in a state budget.

To learn more about what NLC, local governments, and local first responders think of the Administration’s proposal, click here.