Per Capita, New Anti-Terror Funds Still Favor Wyoming
By Kathleen Hunter, Staff Writer
The federal government is targeting more homeland security funds to high-risk urban areas this year, but more anti-terrorism money still is being spent to protect each resident in the most sparsely populated states than in populous ones.
Wyoming, the state with the fewest residents, once again will receive the most funding per capita to fight terrorism in fiscal 2005, according to a Dec. 13 report from the Congressional Research Service.
Wyoming will get $27.80 per person in anti-terrorism grants this year, down significantly from $40 a person last year. In contrast, New York, a victim of repeat terrorist attacks, will receive $15.54 per person in 2005, up from $10.13 last year.
On a per capita basis, New York is the only state to receive more security dollars in fiscal 2005 than fiscal 2004, primarily because overall funding decreased from about $3 billion to about $2.4 billion, according to the report.
Although populous states such as California, Illinois and Texas received less per capita funding in 2005 than in 2004, the rate of decrease was much smaller than in less populous states, evidence that the federal government made some modest headway in answering complaints that rural or sparsely populated states have received an unfair share of the homeland security funding pie since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
California now ranks 27th in per capita funding, up from 38th last year. The Golden State will receive $8.05 per capita in 2005, just $1.57 less than last year. Illinois climbed from 40th to 25th; it will receive $8.13 in 2005, $1.39 less than in 2004. Texas, which received the least per capita funding in 2004 ($7.70 a person), now ranks 43rd at $6.35 a person.
Still, besides Wyoming, sparsely populated Alaska, North Dakota and Vermont top the list of grant recipients when broken down per capita. The nation will spend $24.83 protecting each resident of Alaska, down from $35. North Dakota and Vermont each will receive $23.83 a person, down from $34.83.
For fiscal 2005, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee will receive the least per capita funding - $5.23 a person in Virginia, $5.61 in North Carolina and $5.64 in Tennessee.
New York and California by far will receive the largest dollar amounts to defend against terrorism, $298.3 million in New York and more than $282.7 million in California. Other states receiving the largest grants are Texas with $138.5 million, Illinois with $102.5 million and Florida with $101.3 million.
The report includes funding for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which favors less populated states because it guarantees each state 0.75 percent of total funding, for the Urban Area Security Initiative, which targets high-risk areas, and for four smaller grant programs.
In another major change, the homeland security department dropped seven communities from its list of 50 urban areas to receive extra security funds, replacing them with seven different cities.
There will be no more special grants in 2005 for Albany, N.Y.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; New Haven, Conn.; Orlando, Fla.; Richmond, Va., and St. Paul, Minn.
Instead, urban areas slated for new anti-terrorism money are Arlington, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Honolulu; Jacksonville, Fla.; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb., and Toledo, Ohio.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell is protesting her state's grant totals, which were slashed almost in half for 2005, in part because of the elimination of $9.6 million in special anti-terrorism funds for New Haven, which includes a major harbor. In all, Connecticut is scheduled to receive $24 million, compared with about $45.5 million in fiscal 2004.
In a letter to the homeland security agency, Rell stressed Connecticut's "strategic position in the region" and said that its security responsibilities extend beyond its own population because the state is in the unusual position of serving as a "gatekeeper" for the Northeast.
Whether homeland security funds are being distributed where they're most needed has been a major issue since Congress established the new Cabinet agency and began sending billions of dollars to the states for defense of the homeland. Wyoming, which has been able to use homeland security funds to purchase chemical suits for all of its first responders and to purchase a bomb-dismantling robot, has come to illustrate what populous states see as an inequitable use of money.
Officials in sparsely populated states counter that they also have security concerns and need to achieve a basic level of preparedness. Several rural areas of the country have been warned of specific terrorist threats, including sleepy Tappahannock, Va., which was put on alert after intelligence suggested terrorists might have their eyes on it.
States also have been begging for more federal guidance on how the new grants are to be spent.
New York state Sen. Michael Balboni (R) said that while he was happy to see more money flowing to his state, the federal government still has done little to assist state and local governments in defining strategies for spending it.
"At the heart of the issue is still the difficulty of getting money from Washington, D.C., to Main Street," Balboni said. "We've poured out billions of dollars on homeland security, but we still haven't figured out how to deliver it."