House Committee approves Congresswoman Richardson’s legislation

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legislation richardsonCongresswoman Laura Richardson ushered legislation through the House Committee on Homeland Security that will improve the ability for state and local agencies receiving grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to prioritize the use of those funds to most efficiently meet the specific area needs rather than a faulty once size fits all system.

The Homeland Security Grant Management Improvement Act (H.R. 5562), which is authored and sponsored by Congresswoman Richardson, strengthens the management of the homeland security grant program, while also limiting FEMA’s ability to mandate how state and local grantees fund certain Homeland Security grant projects.

“Since 2002, $33 billion has been distributed to every American state, territory and the District of Columbia; however, the one size fits all approach to Homeland Security is an ineffective policy and it needs to be fixed so the agencies and organizations across the nation that are on the frontline of protecting our nation and its people can use their hands-on experience to determine how to most efficiently use federal funds,” Congresswoman Richardson said. “From our nation’s ports to our border crossings and population centers, the needs of the local agencies that support our homeland security can be vastly different, like California compared to Texas, and this legislation will allow states and local governments to best meet their needs.”

Specifically, Congresswoman Richardson incorporated stakeholder feedback from FEMA’s analysis of state and local officials’ views on federal preparedness requirements, the National Governors Association’s statement on FEMA grants, and the Congressional Research Service’s report on the Department of Homeland Security’s assistance to state and local agencies.
“This bill is the product of extensive Committee oversight of FEMA’s administration of grant programs,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson, who is chair of the full Homeland Security Committee. “H.R. 5562 will ensure homeland security grants are spent wisely and on the most critical needs of state and local governments. I applaud Rep. Richardson’s work on this vital legislation.”

Further, the legislation directs FEMA, in consultation with the National Advisory Council, to evaluate whether state and local governments have the resources necessary to manage their Homeland Security grants. H.R. 5562 requires that FEMA evaluate the feasibility of issuing multi-year guidance programs for Homeland Security grantees. Local governments — who are the front-line of keeping our communities safe — have argued that these multi-year guidance programs would allow them to establish better long-range homeland security planning and ensure that Homeland Security grant funding supports only the most effective projects.

More than $65 million in first responder grants were allocated to the Long Beach area between 2002 and 2008, including $2 million for security stakeholders systems integrating into the port’s joint command and control center, $2 million for a Disaster Recovery Center at the port, and $3 million for a public-address system to alert port workers and visitors in case of an emergency. In 2009, an additional $68 million was given to the Los Angeles and Long Beach area through Urban Area Security Initiative Allocations and another $3.6 million was funded to the area from the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. These 2009 funds helped fund first responder services through the Transportation Workers Identification Credentials program at the Long Beach’s Harbor Department, the Long Beach Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“H.R. 5562, which I authored, will make our nation safer by using taxpayer dollars in the most efficient way possible and in the areas where first responders are needed most,” Congresswoman Richardson added. “These legislative shortcomings have created headaches for our state and local homeland security agencies for nearly eight years, and now is the time to fix the problem so our focus can be on keeping our nation safe and not on red tape.”

Congresswoman Laura Richardson is a Democrat from California’s 37th Congressional District. She is a member of the House Committees on Transportation & Infrastructure and Homeland Security and is chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response. Her district includes Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Watts, Willowbrook and Signal Hill.

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