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Renewed Terrorism Concerns May Bring Restoration Of Emergency Response Grants To KC

A Kansas City council committee says concerns over the Paris terrorist attacks may help the city to get back on the list of metropolitan areas receiving federal emergency response grants.

The Kansas City area received as much as $8 million a year in Homeland Security money during the first seven years of  the Urban Areas Security Initiative, but the grants dwindled after 2010, with the city getting $1 million in some years and nothing in others, including 2015.

In 2015, only 28 cities were funded, and Kansas City was not among them.  New York City received nearly one-third of the $587 million in grants.

Former councilman John Sharp says the city built an excellent emergency response system using the Urban Areas Security funding. The result, he says, was a response team that not only was prepared for a major terrorist attack, but was highly valuable in natural disasters.

For example, Sharp says, Kansas City responders were among the first and most effective to deploy to assist in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado.

But, Sharp says the excellent track record is not sustainable with local funding alone.

“The supplies get outdated, you have to pitch them eventually. The equipment gets worn out.  And you can't continue to keep the training up.”  Much of the training, he explained, needs to be repeated every year.

Addressing the council legislative committee, Sharp said he understands the priority given to the larger cities, but believes there should be enough funding for smaller ones to at least maintain the capabilities they have achieved.

The committee included the push for a renewed grant on its final list of 2016 priorities for the city's Washington lobbyists.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says he will also be involved in the effort.

Other items on the Kansas City Washington priority list include continued funding for the Affordable Care Act and a long-term transportation bill that includes mass transit and bicycle and walking trails.     

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or steveb@kcur.org

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