Senate takes up infrastructure security bill

Washington, DC, November 28, 2001 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday announced the introduction of the “Homeland Security Block Grant Act,” which includes funds to help utilities pay for security upgrades.

Joining Senator Clinton at a U.S. Capitol news conference were Senator Barbara Mikulski and representatives of organizations that are endorsing the legislation, including the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, communities all across America now find themselves on the front lines in the war against terrorism,” Clinton said. “The Homeland Security Block Grant Act is designed to help localities shoulder the burden of providing for the defense of our homeland.”

Under this legislation, cities, counties and towns across America will be able to access Federal funds to help them improve security and public safety locally. Modeled on the Community Development Block Grant program, the Homeland Security Block Grant Act provides $3 billion in funding to communities, with 70 percent going directly to more than 1,000 cities and counties across the United States. The remaining 30 percent will be sent to the states, which will serve as a pass-through for funds directed to smaller communities.

“Mayors across the country strongly endorse the bill filed today by Senator Hillary Clinton that would provide financial assistance targeted for homeland defense efforts in America’s cities,” said Mayor Marc Morial, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “This bill could not come at a better time. Mayors have been on the front lines since September 11, ensuring safety in their communities at great cost to already tight municipal budgets. Every city has different needs, and Senator Clinton’s plan wisely gives communities broad discretion to use these funds as they see fit based on specific local security needs. Mayors fully support this legislation and will work hard to help get it passed as quickly as possible.”

“Our homeland defense will only be as strong as the weakest link at the state and local level,” Senator Clinton said. “By providing our communities with the resources and tools they need to bolster emergency services, strengthen local public health systems and provide more security at potential targets, we will have a safer home front and a stronger America.”

The key provisions of the Act include:

Funding and Distribution – The Act provides $3 billion in grant funds. Seventy percent of the funds will go directly to any local government that is a “qualifying community,” defined to include any city with a population of 50,000 or more that is in a metropolitan area or any county that is in a metropolitan area, regardless of the size of the county. The remaining thirty percent will go to the states for the purpose of distributing funds to smaller non-qualifying communities.

Planning – To encourage the most effective use of block grant funds, communities will be required to submit a plan demonstrating how the funds will serve to improve public safety in order to prepare for and respond to terrorist threats.

Eligible Activities – The purpose of the Act is to provide funds to communities directly because they are most knowledgeable about their public safety needs. The grant funds can be used for the following:

* Improve cyber and infrastructure security, i.e., improve security for water treatment plants, distribution systems, and other water infrastructure; nuclear power plants and other power infrastructure; tunnels and bridges; oil and gas pipelines and storage facilities; and chemical plants and transportation of hazardous substances;

* Assist Local Emergency Planning Committees so that local public agencies can design, review, and improve disaster response systems;

* Assist communities in coordinating their efforts and sharing information with all relevant agencies involved in responding to terrorist attacks;

* Establish timely notification systems that enable communities to communicate with each other when a threat emerges; and

* Improve communication systems to provide information to the public in a timely manner about the facts of any threat and the precautions the public should take.

* Fund additional law enforcement, fire, and emergency resources, including overtime expenses;

* Purchase and refurbish personal protective equipment for fire, police, and emergency personnel and acquire state-of-the-art technology to improve communication and streamline efforts;

Matching – Grant recipients will be required to match only 10 percent of the public safety block grant received. Severely distressed cities will be exempt from the 10 percent matching requirement.

Maintenance of Effort – Communities will not be able to use block grant funds to supplant their pre-September services but they will be able to use the funds to address any post-September 11 needs and to pay for additional services required since September 11.

Administering Agency – The Department of Justice will serve as the administering agency, but will be required to consult in all respects with the Office of Homeland Security, and, as appropriate, other federal agencies.

Performance and Review – Grant recipients must submit a public safety action plan explaining how block grant funds will be used to prepare and respond to terrorist threats. Within 6 months of receiving funds, grant recipients must report to the Attorney General regarding the improvements made in public security resulting from block grant funds.

Within 12 months of enactment, the Justice Department must report to Congress regarding the improvements in homeland defense made as a result of this Act and propose recommendations for amendments to the Act, if any.

Duration – The Act authorizes funding for fiscal year 2002.

Interstate Agreements or Compacts – The Act provides the consent of Congress to any two or more States to enter into agreements or compacts, not in conflict with any federal law, for cooperative effort and mutual assistance in support of public safety planning and programs carried out under the Act as they pertain to interstate areas and to localities within the States.

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