A homeland-security spending bill signed this week by President Bush will dramatically decrease the amount of money used to prepare first responders for terrorist attacks, spurring concern among lawmakers, reports the Lowell (Ma.) Sun. The $32 billion bill provides $3.3 billion for police, paramedic, and firefighter training. That is a 17 percent cut over last year. “Washington has consistently failed to provide enough funding for our first responders,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma.) The Department of Homeland Security already has awarded states and local governments $11.3 billion since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Still, police departments have seen significant drop-offs in federal funding since the century turned, said Lowell Police Superintendent Edward Davis. “We were hoping Homeland Security would offset some of those reductions,” Davis said. “It hasn’t. We’re down officers, the city of Boston is down officers, and the crime rate is beginning to creep back up again. I think there’s a direct cause and effect here.” Under a new formula, the Department of Homeland Security will assign a portion of first-responder funds based on risk, potentially decreasing the funding amount to rural areas while increasing it to cities like Boston, where terror attacks are more likely to occur. Each state will receive a minimum of $7.1 million for first responders. The Department of Homeland Security will distribute the remaining allocation, amounting to 25 percent of first-responder funding, to specific cities or departments.