State Journal-Register

May 01, 2003

Illinois to get $50 million for homeland security


WASHINGTON - Illinois will get $50 million from the latest round of federal aid for homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.

The money includes $43.3 million for training and equipping emergency response workers and $6.7 million to help the state pay for security measures during the heightened terrorism alert level during the war with Iraq.

The funding is part of $1.5 billion that Congress included in a wartime spending bill approved in April.

Eighty percent of the money for emergency personnel must be passed on to local governments by the state. Illinois' top priority is to buy personal protective equipment, including chemical protective suits and gas masks, for each of the 80,000 first-responders in the state, Michael Chamness, director of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, has said.

Half of the $6.7 million is aimed at reimbursing the state and local governments for increasing security during the monthlong "orange" alert during the war. Illinois officials estimated the state was spending $20,000 a day for increased security during that period.

Illinois officials had lobbied for permission to use the federal homeland security money for overtime.

"If 'orange' is going to mean anything when they flip that switch, then there are costs for that," Chamness said.

The funding was announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley met with the Illinois delegation to discuss their federal agenda, which includes getting the state's "fair share" of homeland security funding.

The $50 million announced Wednesday is on top of $18 million that the state expects to receive later this month from a federal 2003 funding bill passed by Congress in February.

Much of the funding being announced Wednesday will be allocated based on a federal formula that has been criticized by populous states such as New York and California. It provides a minimum amount to each state, regardless of its population or the potential threat it faces from terrorists. The rest is distributed based on population.

Toby Eckert of Copley News Service contributed to this report.