NJ gets good and bad news with Homeland Security funding
5/31/2006, 9:02 p.m. ET
By DONNA DE LA CRUZ
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — New Jersey will get far fewer federal dollars for homeland security in the next fiscal year, but the Jersey City-Newark area will see a dramatic increase in funding, officials announced Wednesday.
The Jersey City-Newark area will receive a total of $34.3 million in anti-terrorism grants for fiscal 2006, a 76.8 percent increase from the $19.4 million awarded the previous year. The two cities and their surrounding areas were considered as one locale in the grant process, so it will be up to local officials to divvy up that pile of cash.
The region is one of 46 areas nationwide declared at high risk of attacks which are dividing up $710 million. The Department of Homeland Security this year combined cities with shared boundaries into single entities. The agency studied vulnerability and risk of a terrorist attack in awarding the high-risk grants.
New Jersey's congressional delegation has long argued that the region that includes the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic and Union is at a high-risk of attack. Several tunnels and bridges, a major airport and highway are included in this area. This region covers 1,164 square miles and has a population of 3.8 million, more than 44 percent of the state's total population, according to information from New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
"When the criteria for homeland security funding is based on risk, New Jersey gets its fair share, but when these funds are weighed down by pork, our state loses," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Overall, New Jersey will get $51.92 million in DHS grant money, a figure that includes the high-risk grant. Last year, the state got a total of $56 million.
"It's extremely small compared with what our needs our are," said Richard Canas, New Jersey's Homeland Security director. He said New Jersey had requested approximately $800 million in grants.
Gov. Jon Corzine said he was disappointed the overall size of homeland security grants has been reduced nationwide. DHS said it was distributing $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2006, a 29 percent decrease from the previous year's total of $2.4 billion nationwide.
"The amount of funds available should be growing, not declining," Corzine said. "Protecting families and communities is the most important role of government, and I will continue to work with our congressional delegation on this pressing issue."
Canas said individual counties will learn in July how much DHS money they will receive.
"The counties will be funded based on clearly articulated guidelines related to the specific risks we face in New Jersey," Canas said.
The state received money in the form of several other DHS grants, but saw a decrease of about 27 percent across the board, state officials said. For example, the state last year got $27 million for a program designed to fund homeland security strategy, and this year got $9.1 million.
In the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the state last year got $9.7 million and this year is getting $7.5 million. That program funds law enforcement and public safety functions.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he could not understand why all the DHS grants aren't based on risk. Some grants are doled out according to population.
"So long as Homeland Security grants are awarded based on factors other than risk, those states most at-risk will continue to lack the necessary resources to protect the people they serve," Menendez said.
On the Net:
Department of Homeland Security: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic