2005 Appropriations: What they mean for grant funding

This includes administration and oversight of grants formerly administered by the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (assistance to firefighter grants, emergency management performance grants, Citizens Corps, interoperable communications equipment, etc.); the Office of Domestic Preparedness (law enforcement terrorism prevention, New York equipment replacement, national exercise program [TOPOFF] grants, State Homeland Security Grant Program, and Urban Areas Security Initiatives [UASI], including UASI port security grants, UASI mass transit security grants and UASI radiological defense systems); and the Transportation Security Administration (Port Security Grants, Intercity Bus Security Grants, Operation Safe Commerce, and Trucking Industry Security Grants).
As far as funding levels are concerned, the 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Act draws a compromise between the recommendations of the House and Senate concerning funding state and local programs, settling upon the middling figure of just over $3 billion.
For purposes of funding eligibility, state and local programs are intended to provide assistance to “any county, city, village, town, district, borough, port authority, transit authority, intercity rail provider, commuter rail system, freight rail provider, water district, regional planning commission, council of government, Indian tribe with jurisdiction over Indian country, authorized tribal organization, Alaska Native village, independent authority, special district, or other political subdivision of any state,” according to the legislation. These are identified as “local units of government.”
Formula-based and discretionary grants
The rules governing distribution of formula-based grants and law enforcement terrorism prevention grants do not significantly differ from those of the last fiscal year. Formula-based funds are intended to support training, purchase equipment, and support exercises, as recommended by the state’s homeland security strategy, which must be updated. Once again, states will have 45 days to apply after the grant is announced, and no less than 80 percent of the funds should be dispensedto local governments within 60 days of the state’s receipt of funds.
Discretionary grants will be judged based on the following factors: “credible threat, presence of critical infrastructure, population, vulnerability, cooperation of multiple jurisdictions in preparing domestic preparedness plans, and the identified needs of public agencies in determining the allocation of these funds.” As in the past, 80 percent of these funds must be distributed at the local level within 60 days of the state’s receipt of funds.
It is stipulated that $25 million of the funds made available for UASI grants must be designated for non-profit organizations determined by the secretary of homeland security to be at high risk of international terrorist attacks.
There are exemptions to the general rule that discretionary grants should not be used for construction. Rail, transit, and port security grants are naturally exempt from this requirement, as are cases, as determined by the secretary of homeland security, involving improvements at critical infrastructure facilities that do not exceed $1 million that support “improved perimeter security, minor construction or renovation for necessary guard facilities, fencing, and related efforts.”
For transportation security grants, while Transportation Security Administration (TSA) subject experts will remain at TSA, the State and Local Grant Coordination Program (SLGCP) will involve them in the grant review and award process.
There are strong expectations of close coordination between port security grant recipients, state and local port authorities, and the captain of the port, based on a concern that such coordination was lacking in the past.
The intercity bus program has additionally drawn congressional concern due to a “lack of priorities.” Applicants should consider and prioritize the “importance of passenger screening and terminal security, and focus on the unique structure of the intercity bus industry and the importance of fixed route service” when developing their requests.
Demonstration Training Grants will be distributed through a competitive, peer-review process in support of “first responder pilot and demonstration training projects, covering the local, regional and national levels.” Continuing first responder training efforts will be supported through the separate Continuing Training Grant Program.
The funding provided through the Firefighter Assistance Grant program will be available through Sept. 30, 2006. Current practices will continue involving awarding funds to applicants that follow local priorities and those of the United States Fire Administration (USFA), reinstating all previously eligible funding areas, direct funding of grants to fire departments through the peer-review process, and the USFA’s involvement in grant administration.
The current practice of funding personnel expenses without limits under Emergency Management Performance Grants remains the same. Program administration will not fundamentally differ from those practices established in fiscal 2004. As with transportation grants, while emergency management experts will not relocate to SLGCP, they will be involved in the grant review and award process.
Increases in the amount of National Incident Management System (NIMS) support doubled that recommended by both the House and the Senate. A total of $15 million has been approved, compared to the $7 million recommended. Funds will be used to “establish regional centers to facilitate the development and deployment of NIMS training, education and publications.”
Drafters of the appropriations bill expressed considerable concern over the administration of pre-disaster mitigation grants—under the discretion of DHS’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate—which have been slowly dispensed. In fact, the 2003 grants have only recently been distributed, and a significant amount of funding has still not been awarded. Further reporting by the directorate is required, but other than the additional monitoring, no additional action is recommended.
A look ahead
While the appropriations bill has provided us with a degree of certainty regarding the fiscal 2005 homeland security-funding outlook, there are still a number of unresolved issues. The degree to which various funding requests will need to be outlined prior to the award, even for formula grants, may change in the future, with more stringent expectations regarding states’ homeland security plans and their direct connection to funding requests. Additionally, it is unclear the degree to which NIMS will need to be tied to state homeland security plans and, by extension, requests for grant funding. But judging from the increased support for NIMS, it is quite feasible that it will be an even more important factor in homeland security funding in the future.
In short, the trend toward increased and dedicated administrative oversight for homeland security funding is likely to result in further requirements for grant recipients both before and after the grant award. Administratively, potential grantees ought to prepare themselves for a more comprehensive grants process.
The good news is that grant planning, both pre- and post-award, is always most successful when it is indistinguishable from project planning. Grantees who anticipate these changes and learn to think of grants in terms of total project planning will find these additional hurdles manageable and will be better positioned to appreciate the benefits of receiving additional grant funding. HST
Kara Mitzel is manager of grants development services in the Grants Office LLC in Rochester, NY, a national grants consulting firm specializing in homeland security funding.

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