Questions surround grant funds
Despite the enactment of a law calling for $1 billion in interoperability grants to be distributed to state and local agencies by Sept. 30, how and when the money will be available has become a subject of confusion on Capitol Hill.
Public-safety entities have asked that the interoperability grant program follow Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines, even though the National Telecommunications and Information Administration controls the money. But a memorandum of understanding between the entities has not been finalized, said Yucel Ors, APCO’s legislative affair director.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House and Senate expressed disappointment with President George W. Bush’s budget proposal, which would cut $1.2 billion from existing DHS grants for state and local entities. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff noted that these cuts would be offset by the $1 billion in interoperability grants, but that the money may not be distributed by Sept. 30. Democrats on Capitol Hill have criticized both notions.
With this in mind, the Senate Commerce Committee passed legislation that reiterated the Sept. 30 deadline and detailed potential uses for the grants.
“Is it going to be done by Sept. 30?” Ors asked. “Probably not, but they’re moving toward defining what they’re going to do with the money — at least the Senate is.”
Separately, the Senate Homeland Security Committee approved a bill that would authorize more than $3 billion in grants that would be used to enhance information-sharing capabilities between federal, state and local agencies.