When Congress returns this week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to begin work on a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown at the end of September. Representatives Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy, and Darren Soto want the bill to include counter-terrorism funding for Orlando. The three Members of Congress filed an amendment that would add $20 million in additional funding to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget for grants to sustain training and equipment that was obtained with previous federal funds.
“This funding would help Orlando and other cities avoid losing ground on preparedness,” said Congresswoman Val Demings. “The federal government has a continuing responsibility to assist this nation’s cities in preventing and preparing to respond to acts of terrorism. I believe we have no greater obligation than to keep the people that we represent safe from harm.”
“The safety of our communities must be a top priority. Additional funding for the UASI program will help ensure that cities like Orlando are prepared to handle potential terrorist attacks. As a global tourist destination, Orlando faces unique security challenges. An increase in UASI funding will give law enforcement and first responders the training and tools they need to keep our families safe,” said Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy.
“We have seen too many recent international and national tragedies, including in our beloved Orlando. In this era of growing terror threats, it is vital we are proactive with our preparedness and prevention plans. Additional funding for UASI counter-terror programs will equip our Central Florida Police Departments and First Responders with the necessary training and resources to better protect our community in case of the unexpected. Orlando is a thriving, global city, and we must continue to do all we can to keep Floridians and our visitors safe and secure,” stated Congressman Darren Soto.
If the three lawmakers are successful in including the funding in Congress’ annual spending bill, cities like Orlando that previously received grants under the DHS’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) would be able to apply for new funding next year to sustain counter-terrorism training and equipment that was purchased with prior grant funds. The City of Orlando received funding through UASI in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, but has not qualified for the funding since.
The amendment to the spending bill is just the latest effort by Central Florida’s Congressional delegation to restore the federal funding Orlando previously received under this program. Earlier this year, the three voted for legislation that passed the House, H.R. 2825, with a provision authored by Rep. Demings to create a new, permanent grant program to assist former UASI jurisdictions. Reps. Demings, Murphy, and Soto have also called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fix the flawed formula for calculating terrorism risk that is responsible for Orlando being excluded from UASI program eligibility in recent years.
“We will continue to urge Congress to expand the list of cities included and work to ensure that we have the proper funds to prepare and respond to terrorism in Central Florida,” the three Members of Congress said.