Central Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto announced on Thursday new terror-prevention and preparedness grant funding for Orlando under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).
This year’s award will total $3.8 million. Orlando’s inclusion in the program was restored in 2018 after a multi-year drought, following advocacy by the three representatives.
“For many years, Orlando received no funding from the federal government to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism. I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to ensure that our city annually receives federal dollars to protect our community,” said Murphy. “We will keep fighting to bring home the resources local law enforcement and non-profit organizations need to keep Central Floridians safe.”
“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of Central Floridians,” said Soto.
“As our community continues to grow, we are extremely grateful to receive this increased funding that will aid us in enhancing our law enforcement’s preparedness and prevention methods. The people of Orlando have felt firsthand the impact of extreme tragedies perpetrated by those seeking to create panic and fear, and we are certain this funding will help eliminate such instances wherever possible.”
“The safety and security of every person who lives, works, and travels in Central Florida will always be my top priority. I am once again pleased to announce that Orlando will be a top national recipient of the UASI national security grant, which will train first responders and help our community prevent, prepare and respond to potential incidents,” said Demings. “I am also glad to see that this year’s national priority areas include domestic violent extremism for the first time, which the FBI and other agencies have identified as our top domestic security challenge. This program has been one of my top priorities since arriving in Congress and joining the Homeland Security Committee. The best way to ensure success is to prepare, and as a former law enforcement officer I have seen firsthand how important these federal dollars are to keeping all of us safe. I am grateful to see Orlando’s continued inclusion in this important program and will continue to advocate for our inclusion in years to come.”
The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) provides funding to help with terror-prevention planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas which could be targeted. Orlando received $3.5 million in 2020, $3.25 million in 2019, and $1.5 million in 2018. Prior to this, Orlando was excluded from the program starting in 2014.
The final funding figure is based on the alignment of local programs to five national priority areas:
2. Soft targets/crowded places
3. Intelligence and information sharing
4. Emerging threats
5. Domestic Violent Extremism (NEW)
Law enforcement agencies in 31 cities around the nation—including Orlando, Tampa and Miami—will receive a total of $615 million in UASI funding this year. Florida’s overall allocation this year is $9,701,894. They can use this funding to buy homeland security equipment, conduct training exercises, train and pay first responders, and enhance security in order to protect high-profile locations like stadiums, public transit, and theme parks.
In addition, because Orlando is again receiving UASI funding, non-profit organizations in the city are eligible for Nonprofit Security Grants from DHS. Previously, five faith-based non-profit organizations in Orlando applied for, and received, a total of $480,000.