Even Central Ohio Gets Whacked on Homeland Security Funding

June 2, 2006
Ohio to see less money, and more of that to go to the primary cities

Jun. 1--Local and state officials are adjusting their homeland-security priorities after being told that they'll get less federal money than expected this year.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that 46 cities, including Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, will get some of the $740 million allocated to major urban areas, down from last year's $855 million.

Franklin County and its communities were allotted $4.3 million, down from $7.6 million in 2005.

Local officials said they expected the cutback because the federal budget is tighter and more cities have become eligible for aid.

Barb Seckler, assistant safety director for Columbus, said the decrease means "less equipment, less training and less ability to take our homelandsecurity efforts to the next level."

The grant money is funneled through the Franklin County Homeland Security Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of the county and city. The committee had asked the federal government for $15 million.

Now, it will adjust its priorities and equipment purchases, said Chief Deputy Steve Martin, of the Franklin County sheriff's office and the advisory committee.

Despite the cutback, Martin said, good communication among first-responder agencies during emergencies remains a priority.

Cincinnati is to get $4.66 million, Cleveland is expecting $4.7 million and Toledo is to get $3.85 million.

Many urban areas will get less money this year, a federal spokesman said.

"That doesn't mean that they're any less at risk," said Jerrod Agen, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

New York and Washington, the two cities targeted in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, will receive far less money this year.

New York City still got the largest share -- $124 million -- but that was down from $207 million in 2005. Washington and its suburbs will receive $46 million, compared with $77.5 million last year.

The urban allocations are part of an overall $1.7 billion Homeland Security grant program to help areas prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Ohio's award totals $41.3 million, including the urban grant program. The remaining money is divided among four other programs: the State Homeland Security Program, Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program, Metropolitan Medical Response System and Citizen Corps.

"Forty-one million dollars for all five programs is a disappointment," said Nancy Dragani, director of Ohio Emergency Management Agency. "We had hoped to get a larger amount."

Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.