New Haven will not receive federal funding from the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, depriving the city of some expected resources that would have gone to securing key areas of the city, including the harbor.
City officials said the cut’s impact will be offset by the $9.6 million New Haven received last year, which still has not been spent. The money will be used to provide for equipment, infrastructure and other security needs that would otherwise not be covered in the city’s budget.
Since the funds are only to be used for expenses the city would not otherwise cover, the cut will not impact the city’s budget, said Jennifer Pugh, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s acting chief administrator.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to protest the cuts, which will also reduce statewide funding by over $8.4 million.
“These funding decisions are woefully short-sighted,” Rell said in a statement released Dec. 3. “It makes no sense to cut back on Homeland Security efforts and funding. The threats have not gone away — nor should the federal government’s commitment to safeguarding the states. We will fight for our fair share.”
DeStefano said one of his main concerns was the lack of an explanation from the Department of Homeland Security as to why New Haven’s funding was cut.
“I almost mind less the denial than their inability to explain why some communities get it and others don’t,” DeStefano said.
Pugh said the reason for the funding cut is that the federal government changed the criteria for awarding money. The new calculation involves population and population density, the number of terrorism cases currently under investigation, communications between branches of government and the current threat index, based partly on secret information from law enforcement sources.
“We never were guaranteed that we would get funding in 2005, and the fact that we didn’t doesn’t preclude us from getting funding in 2006,” Pugh said. “I think our hope would be to get more funding down the road.”
The city, along with its six contiguous towns, has already approved a plan for spending the 2004 funds in four key areas, focusing on securing New Haven’s port, the second largest in New England. The key spending areas are equipment, critical infrastructure, recovery planning for after a potential crisis and communications.
The 2004 funding should be available for spending in January, Pugh said. The funds are to be administered by the state and have not yet been released because the legislature voted last session to merge the state offices of public safety and emergency management, and the federal government refused to release the funds until the new entity takes over next month.
The problem the city faces now is to determine to what extent the 2004 funding will cover the spending plan proposals and then allocate the funds. The city does not currently know how much certain aspects of the plan will cost to implement, because in some cases consulting firms are still working on cost projections.
“Had we gotten funding in 2005, it would’ve given us an assurance that we’d be able to carry out all of the plans we have in place now,” Pugh said.