ORLANDO MORE THAN DOUBLES ITS FEDERAL ANTI-TERROR FUNDING WITH $3.5 MILLION IN 2019
Orlando will receive $3.25 million in federal anti-terrorism funding this year, according to U.S. Rep. Val Demings’ office, more than double the amount from last year and following years of not receiving any money at all.
The region received $1.5 million in Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative grants in 2018, after Orlando was left off the list of anti-terrorism money for three straight years from 2015 to 2017 despite the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub that killed 49 people in 2016.
The grant is part of more than $590 million being parceled out to 31 “high-threat, high-density” cities and urban areas to help pay for training and equipment.
Last year’s grant was divvied up among surrounding counties including Orange, Seminole, Lake, Osceola and Volusia. Public safety organizations will put together another wish list of equipment for 2019 including firearms, bomb squad materials and active shooter kits, but the money can’t be used to hire people or pay salaries.
Central Florida’s congressional delegation, including Demings, D-Orlando, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said the grant was necessary for a rapidly growing region already touched by terror.
“Last year, Orlando scored a major victory when we were re-added to the list for vital terror-prevention funding,” said Demings, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement. “I am thankful that we were able to replicate that success this year.”
Demings, who referenced her oversight of Urban Area Security Initiative-funded programs as Orlando police chief, added, “There is nothing more important to me than keeping our community safe.’’
Murphy said, “I joined my colleagues in fighting to secure this anti-terrorism funding so that law enforcement has the tools it needs to prevent further tragedies and maintain public safety.”
The Pulse shooting, she said, “was a stark reminder that Orlando is vulnerable to acts of terrorism, and the federal government has a responsibility to provide the necessary support to help protect our city.”
Soto added he was “thrilled” with the additional money, saying Central Florida “knows all too well the necessity of being ready for the unthinkable after enduring the pain of the Pulse nightclub shooting.”
Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings traveled to Washington, D.C., less than a month after the Pulse shooting to press federal officials and members of Congress to reassess the formula used to decide which communities deserve funding.
The criteria is based on “relative threat, vulnerability and consequence factors from acts of terrorism by each [urban area],” along with “targeted infrastructure that terrorists are deemed more likely to attack” and border crossings.
Orlando was was ranked 38th in the nation in 2016 based on that formula, with the top 33 cities and urban areas receiving funding, including Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.