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Senate Appropriators Approve Deep Cuts in First Responder Programs Next Year

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
September 19, 2011

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out a FY 2012 appropriations bill September 7 that would provide $41 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security Ė$2.6 billion below the Presidentís request, $666 million less than is available this year, and $408 million more than is in the House-passed bill. The bill was reported out of subcommittee the previous day.

The bill provides $2.58 billion for state and local grants, $797 million less than is available this year and $1.27 billion less than the President requested, but $557 million above the House level. It would cut the State Homeland Security Grant Program by 41 percent below this yearís level; the Urban Area Security Initiative program by 45 percent; rail, port, and bus security by 24 percent; and firefighter assistance programs by seven percent.

The bill rejects the House proposal to eliminate the Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grants, and Transit Security Grants and other programs and replace them with a single grant program to be administered at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. While it provides no funding for Citizens Corps, Driverís License Security, Buffer Zone Protection Program, and Metropolitan Medical Response System, it would make these activities eligible in the funded programs.

The table shows funding for key state and local programs in millions of dollars.

Disaster Relief Funding Increased

The measure would provide $6 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, $3.35 billion above this yearís level, $4.2 billion more than the President initially requested, and $2.3 billion more than is in the House bill. On September 6, the White House sent a letter to appropriations and budget committee leaders boosting its initial $1.8 billion request to $6.9 billion.

On September 15, the Senate passed on a 62-37 vote a separate measure proposed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) that would provide $6.9 billion in emergency disaster relief. Two amendments requiring the funding to be offset were rejected. FEMA has indicated that the Disaster Relief Fund is down to less than $400 million. Itís expected it will run out of money before September 30.