DHS opens $3B in FY2009 grants with less restrictions

From the Washington Post:

The Department of Homeland Security announced plans yesterday to dole out $3 billion in counterterrorism grants next year to state and local agencies with far-fewer strings attached than in past years.

The DHS move marks a response to criticism from a Democratic Congress and increasingly restive state and local leaders. They have complained that the Bush administration’s domestic security officials have focused on terrorism at the expense of other law enforcement priorities, such as fighting drugs, gangs and violent crime.

Among other changes, DHS loosened rules to allow recipients to spend up to 50 percent of homeland security grants for personnel expenses, up from 25 percent; ease a 25 percent local-match requirement for rail, transit and port security aid; lift a three-year limit on funding for intelligence analysts in law enforcement “fusion” centers, which police chiefs nationwide have requested.

The department also agreed to spread aid for immigration law enforcement to states with international water as well as land borders, and to let grants be used to store — not just purchase — emergency supplies such as prepackaged food, water and medicines.

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