By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
» Also Inside this Report: Administration Proposes Significant Cuts to FIRE Grant Program, SAFER Program Increases
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration wants to cut almost in half a benefits program for the families of slain police and safety officers.
Administration Releases Detailed Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Proposal; Proposes Cutting Funds to FIRE Grant Program, Increasing SAFER
Source: Congressional Fire Services Institute
On Thursday, May 7th, the White House released the appendix for the Administration's Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, detailing requested funding levels for programs and offices in the federal budget. The Administration initially released a blueprint of the $3.6 trillion budget in February, giving a snapshot of the President's spending plan.
The Administration has proposed funding the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program at double the level it was funded in FY2009, increasing funding to $420 million for this crucial program. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) also receives a modest increase of approximately $600,000. The State Homeland Security Grant Program receives the same level of funding as FY2009 ($950 million) and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) receives a $50 million increase.
Unfortunately the Administration proposes funding the popular FIRE grant program at only $170 million - a cut of nearly 70% from Fiscal Year 2009. The program, which received $3.2 billion in requests in Fiscal Year 2008, provides funding for critical equipment, training, and apparatus directly to local fire departments. The program also provides grants for fire prevention and safety programs and firefighter health and safety research.
While the Administration's budget proposal is meant to serve as a guideline for federal spending, Congress will ultimately determine funding levels for these programs. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have begun work on crafting Fiscal Year 2010 spending bills. CFSI has reached out to members of Congress regarding the budget proposal and will continue to provide updates as the appropriations process moves forward.
The Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Proposal and Appendix can be obtained from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
The president's proposed budget calls for cutting the Public Safety Officers' Death Benefits Program
from $110 million to $60 million.
The Justice Department insisted no one would lose benefits.
President Barack Obama speaks about the fiscal 2010 federal budget, Thursday, May 7, 2009, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the White House in Washington.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"Any family member who is eligible for benefits under this program will receive them," said Justice Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz.
Budget documents say the reduction is being made because "claims are anticipated to decrease," apparently because the number of officers killed in the line of duty has been decreasing.
The proposal is being made just days before Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to attend ceremonies in Washington honoring slain officers.
"It makes us kind of nervous. While we aren't panicking, it certainly has increased our concern, coming a week before National Police Week," said Suzie Sawyer, executive director of Concerns of Police Survivors
, a group taking part in next week's events.
Sawyer said as long as the number of police and safety officers killed doesn't increase too much, the amount of money offered in the budget could be enough. And she noted that in the past, the government has found more money for the program when it needed more, such as following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The program pays benefits of more than $300,000 to the survivors of a safety officer killed in the line of duty.
There were 133 police officers killed in the line of duty last year, the lowest amount since 1960, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
The group said killings of police officers are up 21 percent so far in 2009, compared to the same period the year before.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.