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$8.8B in "Stabilization Funds" going to police in economic stimulus?

Money in the so-called “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” (SFSF) will be administered and distributed by the U. S. Department of Education

As has been previously reported by PoliceOne, law enforcement agencies may apply for an estimated $3.8 billion to $4.1 billion in grant funding assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), and various other programs included in the economic stimulus package signed into law by President Obama last month.

However, there may be as much as $8.8 billion in additional funds available to law enforcement agencies through the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” (SFSF), an appropriation of $53.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Money in the so-called SFSF will be administered and distributed by the U. S. Department of Education, and while states must use 81.8 percent of SFSF funds for the “support of public elementary, secondary, and higher education, and, as applicable, early childhood education programs and services” there is language which gives states (and by extension their governors and legislatures) the latitude to spend the remaining 18.2 percent on “public safety and other government services.”

The Department of Education Web site says that while states can elect to use the remaining $8.8 billion in “flexible block grants” to avert budget cuts in basic state programs like child care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, the money can also be put toward purchases and programs that support law enforcement.

Why take the “end-around” approach?
Three significant impediments to obtaining COPS, Byrne/JAG, and other grant funds presently exist. First is the inherent confusion about the grant-writing process—the staff at PoliceOne, various LE equipment vendors, and an emerging army of grant-writing consultants are working hard to fix that problem.

Second is the rapid timeline written into the stimulus package—according to information distributed by the Department of Justice, the funds for state and local law enforcement assistance programs will be available for allocation until September 2010.

The third and most ominous difficulty is that the DOJ in Washington D.C. (and administrators in statehouses coast-to-coast) are simply not prepared to handle the number of proposals they will receive. In the past eight years, the number of COPS and Byrne/JAG grants administered at the state and federal level has shrunk dramatically, and so too has the number of people processing grant applications. Some fear that many deserving grant proposals may go unread – or even unopened – because handlers at the DOJ will be paralyzed by paperwork. There are not enough people dedicated to the analysis of applications even now, some experts say, and the sheer volume of applications headed their way is unprecedented.

Given those constraints, the State Stabilization funds could be an incredible boon to police forces seeking to use the economic stimulus package to obtain everything from new infrastructure and equipment to putting additional cops on the streets.

Because as much as two times the amount of money officially targeted to law enforcement in COPS, Byrne/JAG, and other grants may be available from the SFSF, and because the allocation of 18 percent of SFSF is left to the discretion of the elected officials at the state level, State Stabilization funds may be the clearest path for agencies to seek financial support. In effect, the more creative, proactive agency grant writer will have the advantage in securing this “hidden” money.

“Whether governors will allocate stabilization funds to public safety is yet to be seen. If they like, governors can spend their full allotment for education,” says Rick Wimberly, President of Galain Solutions, a consultancy serving public safety organizations. “Unless a governor specifically allocates a portion of a state’s fund to public safety, public safety organizations will need to compete with other government services.”

Move fast and stay on top of the news
“Since the money isn’t directed specifically toward public safety – it simply says the funds can be used for this purpose at the Governors discretion – now it is the time for agencies to write to the Governors and make their needs known,” grants consultant Margaret Stark tells PoliceOne in an exclusive interview. “In addition, they should be meeting with their associations such as Chief’s and Sheriff’s Associations within each state to present their request and further make their needs known to the Governor. Competition for this funding will be fierce and it is almost certain if they don’t act now they will miss out completely.”

Wimberly agrees. “Now is the time to start making plans, even if the rules are not one-hundred-percent clear at this point. Use your contacts in your governor’s office and with your local legislators to express your opinions about spending the state stabilization funds. Federal and state officials will now scramble to figure out how to administer this large amount of money. They’ll then start publicizing the rules for applying for the money. Pay attention, and use your contacts with state administrators to get as much advance notice as possible.”

Some local and state leaders already have public safety projects on their radar for the State Stabilization funds. Wimberly says that according to a review of “wish lists” published prior to the passage of the economic stimulus bill, construction of police stations and police training facilities, as well as the purchase of “information technology” such as records management, radio and 911, computer aided dispatch, gunshot location, and other systems are already on the minds of elected officials and LE leadership alike.

Stark tells PoliceOne, “The Recovery package is looking for shovel-ready projects—in other words, projects that are ready to go now and will include the creation of jobs. If agencies have any such projects, those are the ones that they should be talking about with their Governor.”

Distribution of funds based on age, total population
States will receive SFSF allocations based on two formulas, both of which are tied to population. About 60 percent of each state’s allocation will be on the basis of their relative population of individuals between the ages of five and 24-years-old; the remaining monies allocated will be based on states’ relative shares of total U.S. population. An estimate of state-by-state allocation of the “flexible” block grant in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (in millions of dollars, total allocated over FY2009 – FY 2011) available to law enforcement agencies that wish to apply is as follows:

Alabama: $132.7
Alaska: $20.7
Arizona: $185.1
Arkansas: $80.8
California: $1,084.8
Colorado: $138.4
Connecticut: $98.6
Delaware: $24.5
District of Columbia: $16.3
Florida: $491.5
Georgia: $280.5
Hawaii: $35.0
Idaho: $44.9
Illinois: $374.0
Indiana: $183.3
Iowa: $86.0
Kansas: $81.7
Kentucky: $118.5
Louisiana: $129.0
Maine: $35.2
Maryland: $160.1
Massachusetts: $181.0
Michigan: $289.8
Minnesota: $148.6
Mississippi: $87.2
Missouri: $167.6
Montana: $27.1
Nebraska: $52.1
Nevada: $72.2
New Hampshire: $36.5
New Jersey: $242.1
New Mexico: $57.9
New York: $549.2
North Carolina: $258.5
North Dakota: $19.1
Ohio: $325.7
Oklahoma: $105.2
Oregon: $103.8
Pennsylvania: $346.8
Rhode Island: $30.0
South Carolina: $126.3
South Dakota: $23.2
Tennessee: $172.5
Texas: $723.2
Utah: $87.3
Vermont: $17.2
Virginia: $218.9
Washington: $182.4
West Virginia: $48.5
Wisconsin: $159.6
Wyoming: $15.0
Puerto Rico: $117.9

Total: $8,793.9

The Department of Education Web site states that in the near future, the Department will make available the SFSF grant application and provide detailed program guidance.

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