After watching Orlando just miss the cut for federal counter-terrorism grants the past two years, Orlando’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings is putting together a bipartisan push to get such money increased to help mid-sized cities.
Demings and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican whose hometown of San Antonio also got passed over for the most recent grants, claim 19 other members of Congress, in a bipartisan group, calling for an increase in counter-terrorism funding for the nation’s at-risk cities.
It’s an issue that Demings husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina testified about in a congressional hearing last year, arguing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s scoring system for the Urban Area Security Initiative, was unfair to cities like Orlando.
Currently, only the 29 “highest-risk” cities nationwide are eligible. Demings and Hurd argue that leaves out as many as nine mid-sized cities, including Orlando and San Antonio, which have received grants in the past, but not the past two years.
“As the first line of defense, it is critical that local law enforcement agencies are equipped to detect, prevent and effectively respond to any enemy that threatens the safety of their citizens,” Rep. Demings stated in a news release issued by her office. “At the time of the 9/11 attacks I was commander of the Orlando Police Department Airport Division at the Orlando International Airport, and saw firsthand how these funds could be used to make sure local law enforcement is prepared to prevent, and respond to threats.”
Since 2010, law enforcement agencies in the Orlando metropolitan area have received more than $11 million in total funding through the UASI program. However, reduced nationwide funding for the program in recent years has resulted in fewer cities being included in the program.
Orlando, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu, Kansas City, New Orleans, Sacramento, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk have each received more than $8 million in UASI funding since FY2010, but have also each endured two consecutive years without receiving any funds through the program.
“As the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history, and as the number one tourist destination in our nation, there is no question Orlando should be on the list of cities that receive federal support to fight terrorism,” Demings stated.