Security act may benefit city

While some Connecticut representatives have openly criticized this year’s federal Homeland Security Act, New Haven officials said the bill’s risk-based allocation of funding may actually benefit the city.

With President George W. Bush ’68 poised to sign the $31.9 billion security bill, New Haven officials said the city stands to benefit from a new provision of the bill that requires states to prove their need for additional funding using criteria based on their risk of being attacked. The amount of funding states receive for security was formerly determined by population.

New Haven Deputy of Public Information Derek Slap said he thinks the Elm City’s vulnerability and importance will outweigh its population, so these factors might increase the funding the city receives.

Last year, the state did not receive a requested $10 million to bolster security at New Haven Harbor, home to a major heating oil reserve. Slap said the inability of the state to receive funding in that case demonstrated the bill’s former weaknesses.

“[Under the old rules] you started getting towns like Omaha, Nebraska, getting more funding than we did,” Slap said. “New Haven is in a key position, being so close to New York City. With a rail line and the harbor, it should really be a regional concern.”

The new bill entirely eliminates last year’s provisions for homeland security grants to be allocated by population, allowing states to instead justify extra aid money by demonstrating their level of risk of attack.

But Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes New Haven, said she strongly opposes the bill due to its treatment of first-responder grants.

“[The bill] cuts in half the State Homeland Security Grants Program, which provides firefighters and police with grants for training and equipment,” DeLauro said. “Connecticut first responders will now have to compete aggressively for money available through competitive grants.”

The homeland security bill passed 347-70 in the House on Thursday, and on Friday it passed the Senate by a voice vote. But in Connecticut, the bill has been generally opposed by Democrats like DeLauro and Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd, along with Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who wrote Congress a letter in protest of some of its provisions.

Rell spokesman Rich Harris said the governor’s complaints centered on the allocation of 99.25 percent of all grant money according to risk. He said the bill will cause a rush to appeal for funding — which he thinks will be a hindrance to all states — because it leaves open the question of which state agencies should appeal to the Department of Homeland Security for extra funding.

“There’s no clearly defined process for how or when we ask for these grants,” he said. “It creates a sort of lobbying contest among the states for who can make the best case.”

But despite his remaining concerns regarding the bill, Harris said he thinks Connecticut is guaranteed to get more money than the baseline amount. During the 2005 fiscal year, Connecticut received $21 million in federal Homeland Security Grants, while in 2004 it received $46 million.

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