(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) warned that the President’s budget will hurt Washington state’s ability to respond to disasters because it cuts funding for Emergency Management Planning Grants. Last year, 43 Washington counties, cities and tribes relied on these grants to prepare for man-made and natural disasters.
Murray raised the issue with a Bush Administration official at a hearing today, and he suggested that states somehow make up for the loss of federal funds.
“Families in every corner of our state are safer today because we have local emergency professionals who are preparing for and responding to disasters,” Senator Murray said. “By cutting and restricting these federal grants, the President will force our communities to come up with funding on their own or eliminate those positions and leave our communities at risk. I will not sit by as the President tries to push yet another unfunded mandate onto our local emergency responders.”
Washington’s Director of Emergency Management, Glen Woodbury, echoed Senator Murray’s concerns. “Today we’re being asked to do more to prepare for homeland security and natural disasters, and it’s the wrong time to cut funding for emergency response,” Woodbury said.
Emergency planners in Pierce County told Woodbury in a letter this month that, “The proposed EMPG restrictions may, indeed, ‘break the camel’s back.’”
The President’s budget would cut funding for Emergency Management Planning Grants (EMPG) by $8 million. In addition, his budget would limit a community’s ability to use these grants for emergency management professionals. Under the proposal, only 25 percent of federal funding could go to personnel costs -- pushing that burden back onto states and communities. In 2003, 43 Washington jurisdictions -- and the state itself -- received a total of $3.45 million in these grants.
Today, Murray used her seat on the Senate’s Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to raise the issue directly with Michael Brown, the Undersecretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Department of Homeland Security. Murray told Brown that the President’s cuts and limits would hurt local communities.
Undersecretary Brown responded, “We would just ask the states to see if they can’t find money to keep those people in place because I don’t want to lose those people either. I want to keep them in place and train them and exercise them.”
Murray replied, “Remember, our states and our local communities are suffering from a very difficult budget crisis right now.”
Ever since the President released his FY 2005 budget on February 2nd, Senator Murray has warned about dangerous cuts to:
- port security,
- emergency planning,
- and first responders.
The President’s budget cuts more than $2.5 billion for first responders nationwide, including:
- cutting first-responder grants to states by $990 million,
- cutting training for first responders by $103 million,
- cutting firefighter grants by $496 million, cutting Emergency Management Planning Grants by $8 million,
- and eliminating the COPS program and cutting other law enforcement grants
(a cut of $911 million).
“Homeland security is a shared responsibility, but the Bush Administration wants to pass a larger share of the bill for port security, first responders and emergency planners onto our hard-pressed state and our local communities,” Murray said.
Murray has been a consistent advocate for Washington’s emergency planners. Last year, she introduced an amendment to boost funding for emergency planning grants. Two weeks ago, Murray was honored by the National Emergency Management Association at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Murray will continue to use her position on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to stand up for Washington’s security needs.