Central Florida’s three Democratic members of the U.S. Congress have introduced an amendment to the federal spending bill that would set aside additional antiterrorism money for cities like Orlando that miss the cut from Homeland Security.
Central Florida’s delegation – dating back to the three previous incumbents – has argued that Homeland Security’s rules for distributing local antiterrorism money are unfair because they do not adequately take into account tourism visitors and other factors that would rank Orlando as a higher potential terrorism target.
That argument began before the June 12, 2016, attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that killed 49 and wounded 53.
U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park introduced an amendment to the federal budget bill that would provide an additional $20 million for cities on the bubble like Orlando and San Antonio, which also has been pushing for a change in federal rules.
The money would go toward federal Urban Area Security Initiative grants to sustain training and equipment that was obtained with previous federal funds.
“This funding would help Orlando and other cities avoid losing ground on preparedness,” Demings, who’s been particularly outspoken about the issue, stated in a news release. “The federal government has a continuing responsibility to assist this nation’s cities in preventing and preparing to respond to acts of terrorism. I believe we have no greater obligation than to keep the people that we represent safe from harm.”
Demings is a member of the House Committee On Homeland Security.
“We have seen too many recent international and national tragedies, including in our beloved Orlando. In this era of growing terror threats, it is vital we are proactive with our preparedness and prevention plans. Additional funding for UASI counter-terror programs will equip our Central Florida police departments and first responders with the necessary training and resources to better protect our community in case of the unexpected. Orlando is a thriving, global city, and we must continue to do all we can to keep Floridians and our visitors safe and secure,” stated Soto.
“The safety of our communities must be a top priority. Additional funding for the UASI program will help ensure that cities like Orlando are prepared to handle potential terrorist attacks. As a global tourist destination, Orlando faces unique security challenges. An increase in UASI funding will give law enforcement and first responders the training and tools they need to keep our families safe,” Murphy stated.
Last year their predecessors, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson and John Mica also implored the Department of Homeland Security to reevaluate its ranking system. Orlando had gotten antiterrorism money in previous years, but failed to qualify in 2015 and 2016. Demings’ husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina testified before Congress on the need for such grants to Orlando.
Earlier this year, Demings, Soto, and Murphy voted for legislation that passed the House, House Resolution 2825, with a provision authored by Demings to create a new, permanent grant program to assist former UASI jurisdictions.