There’s a single sentence in the economic stimulus law that could have a major impact on the public safety of Americans…and, it appears to be overlooked by public safety officials, their trade organizations, state and local legislators, and industries serving public safety. We’re amazed.
The single discreet sentence of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 says that 18.2% of the “state fiscal stabilization” funds may be spent “for public safetyand other government services”. The “stabilization” funds amount to 53.6-billion dollars…so, those seven words and that relatively small portion of 18.2% could be worth over $9.7-billion dollars. Granted, there are a number of cavaets associated with the stabilization funds…but, a $9.7-billion dollar pot of money is an awful big pot!
There is very little visibility about what this money could mean to public safety. The general media, when they choose to report on public safety, pays more attention to more obvious law enforcement programs funded through economic stimulus. The economic stimulus law gave new life to two Department of Justice (DoJ) grant programs that had been cut significantly. During the years of the Bush administration, funds were shifted from the DoJ crime-fighting programs to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where emphasis was placed on terrorism, mostly in the largest metropolitan areas. The DHS grants remain, but the DoJ grants are increased significantly.
The DoJ grant beneficiaries are the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program (commonly referred to as “Byrne Grants” or “JAG” – Justice Assistance Grants Program) and the Community Oriented Policing Services Grant Program (commonly referred to as “COPS Grants”). Both grant programs are designed to fight crime, although there’s been a certain amount of flexibility in the way funds are spent. The Byrne/JAG grants will received two-billion-dollars. The COPS grants received one-billion-dollars.
Throughout the country, announcements are now being made on a daily basis about how local communities are planning to access Bryne/JAG and COPS monies.
So, the question begs: Why isn’t the larger pot of money, the $9.7-billion dollars getting attention? First, there’s a lack of awareness. Many of the large public safety trade organizations seem oblivious to this opportunity for their members, and certainly the general media isn’t aware of it. There’s been some attention given to the “Impact of the Economic Stimulus Law on Public Safety” report by Galain Solutions, LLC, but the big news still seems to be buried.
Perhaps one of the reasons this public safety funding opportunity is not getting due attention is that the 18.2% clause of the ARRA is written under the Department of Education, which has responsibility for awarding the stabilization funds to the states. Another would be that many states (make that “most”) have not figured out yet exactly how they’re going to spend their stabilization funds. It’s too early, and the task is daunting (not to mention confusing and wrought with political implications).
The confusion and challenges could represent opportunities for public safety. In most states, it’s not too late for public safety officials and supporters to make their needs known and voices heard. In fact, the timing is right. They could ask direct questions to the state officials who’ve been given responsibility for handling the money. (Insight into who they are can be found at stateline.org).
Local state legislators should not be overlooked. With this much money at stake, smart governors are not making stabilization spending decisions without input from the state legislature. In some states, the governors are prohibited by law or state constitution from making these types of decisions without legislative approval.
So, the word needs to spread…and the timing is right. Companies that serve public safety should get on the band wagon, and certainly start developing plans for how they’re going to market and sell around the economic stimulus plan to get their products and services into the hands of the people who will benefit. This will not be a short-term effort; the impact of economic stimulus on the public safety industry will last for years.