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A Rundown of Key Federal Grants Programs

Source: Homeland Response

After 9/11, President George Bush promised more funds to help responders cope with the threat of terrorism. It took a long time before the federal government could gear up and begin delivering on those promises.

Today, after years of confusion, delay and complaints, billions of federal dollars have begun to flow towards state and local homeland security agencies in the form of grants and funding programs. This is in addition to money spent on programs implemented by federal authorities.

In fiscal year 2003, for example, federal funds paid to train thousands of responders and medical personnel to handle hazmat, WMD and bioterrorism emergencies. They supported security upgrades at large ports, dozens of municipal water systems and many mass transit systems. They funded uncounted personal protective ensembles (PPEs) and more than 1,300 new fire trucks.

Federal funding, dispersed largely through the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will have an even greater impact in fiscal 2004. DHS's Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) plans to spend more than $4 billion for emergency prevention, preparedness and response personnel. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will add nearly $1 billion more.


There are many reasons it took so long. One is the sheer size of creating, staffing and administering the new cabinet-level DHS. Two-and-one-half years after 9/11, the federal government is still grappling with the best way to deliver money n which really means capabilities n to responders.

DHS is well on its way to becoming the clearinghouse for homeland security grants. It acquired many of these programs from other agencies. ODP, for example, came from the Department of Justice. FEMA was an independent agency. DHS is working overtime to develop a more coherent and uniform way to deliver these funds.

This is a huge administrative task. Along the way, DHS has dropped, moved, consolidated, or even restarted formerly dead programs. It has n along with other federal agencies n revised virtually every program to place more emphasis on terrorist threats.

DHS has also struggled with a problem most responders would like to have n how to deal with huge budget increases. Funding for FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, for example, rose to $750 million in 2003 and 2004, from $360 million in 2002 and $100 million in 2001. The Port Security Grant Program, which did not exist in 2001, spent its budgeted $170 million in 2003 and was then given another $179 million in supplemental funds. DHS has struggled to distribute and supervise these funds and programs effectively.


The biggest changes over the past two years involve philosophy. DHS has three central principles to guide funding. First, DHS wants to fund all-hazards equipment and training that can be used in any emergency, from bioterrorism to flooding.

Second, all grants should help local responders support the National Response Plan (NRP), a single comprehensive approach to domestic incident management that is still in development. Third, because states play a key role in NRP planning and management, they are in the best position to distribute funds to responders who can support statewide emergency plans.

This emphasis on overarching strategy is a big switch from the past, when police, fire and EMS were judged simply on the basis of whether they needed new equipment or not.

The result is a funding system in flux. Many programs still continue to provide responders with direct funding. This may change as DHS takes firmer control of funding programs and moves more disbursement decisions to the states.

Even then, local responders will benefit from understanding the major federal homeland security funding programs. By aligning their own grant requests with federal priorities, they improve their chances of receiving funds. By taking advantage of direct funding for local governments and businesses, they can close gaps in state and local security plans.

For a full list of programs, Click Here.

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