Post-9/11 State Grants Going Unspent
Nearly a third of the anti-terrorism money the federal government has doled out to states and cities since Sept. 11 hasn’t been spent by police and emergency workers who would respond to attacks and natural disasters, according to USA Today.
Almost $5 billion of $16.04 billion in grants approved by Congress for states and Washington, D.C., from fiscal 2002 to 2007 remains in federal coffers, according to Homeland Security Department budget figures. The situation has fueled concerns in the Bush administration and Congress that the government has been dishing out money faster than local governments can spend it.
“Why put billions more dollars in the hopper when it’s full already?” says Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
The programs were created after Sept. 11 to tighten security and pay for equipment and training. Rogers and others say many security gaps have been filled and the government should slow the flow of money from Washington.
In its fiscal 2008 budget request to Congress, the Bush administration asked for $2.2 billion for the grant programs. But the House voted to nearly double that, and the Senate may do the same next month.
The White House calls the increase “unwarranted and unjustified.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says if Congress wants to give him more money, he would rather use it for something “unglamorous but necessary,” such as upgrading information technology systems in the citizenship and immigration division of his department.
States say there are many reasons for the backlog. In some cases, equipment is back-ordered; in others, money is obligated for multiyear projects, such as upgrading communications systems.
Even in Washington, D.C., and New York, where officials complained bitterly about cuts to their grants last year, large sums are sitting in the federal treasury. In Washington, 37.7 percent is unspent; in New York, 47.9 percent.
In Tennessee, where $73 million of the $276 million the state has received since fiscal 2002 has not been spent, some of the money is left because communities cannot come up with the matching funds required to spend the federal dollars, Mike Browning of the state Department of Safety told USA Today.
In Pennsylvania, which hasn’t spent a third of its money, the emergency management agency’s Justin Fleming says officials must “adhere to strict bidding and contracting rules before the money can be spent.”