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Georgia First Responders to Receive $6.9 Million in Homeland Security Grants

Monday, June 23, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774

Well Timed Funds to Support Local First Responder Initiatives

Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that Georgia's first responders have been approved for a $6.9 million-dollar financial boost to help pay for anti-terrorism and homeland security initiatives.

"This much needed homeland security grant money will provide Georgia's local first responders with the equipment needed to handle potential weapons of mass destruction incidents," said Governor Sonny Perdue. The grants will fund homeland security projects in 68 different local departments across Georgia.

"We are grateful to President George Bush, Secretary Tom Ridge and our Georgia legislative delegation for providing such a rapid response to make these much needed funds available," said Governor Perdue.

According to Georgia Homeland Security Director Bill Hitchens, the state was ahead of schedule helping local first responders with their applications for a total of $7.9-million-dollars in federal grant requests. The remaining $1 million dollars in funding requests are being reviewed for approval pending the receipt of additional information from various local first responder programs.

"This new funding program marks a drastic and welcome shift in the way federal dollars can be used to meet the needs of this state's first responders. Georgia submitted 71 first responder funding requests. We are pleased with today's announcement and hope to hear from the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) regarding our outstanding requests," said Director Bill Hitchens.

"Previous grants from ODP were less flexible and local governments received a smaller share between 1999 and 2001. The current program targets local governments and can therefore more accurately reflect the needs and priorities of local communities," added Director Hitchens.

The $7.9-million for the state's first responders is part of a federal award totaling $14 million-dollars made to Georgia on May 27, 2003. The state portion of the funding has been earmarked to develop a Search-and-Rescue program, as well as to enhance Georgia's statewide Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capabilities.

Future federal grant funding will also be used to provide local law enforcement access to a state-of-the-art investigative computer program which can be used to identify terrorists.

In Georgia, eight regional "All-Hazards Councils" served as the focal point of this grant process. The councils assess regional needs, then request grant proposals from the local governments in their region and prioritize them. The proposals are then reviewed by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) before being sent on to the federal Office of Domestic Preparedness for a final funding decision.

GEMA Director Mike Sherberger said, "This demonstrates the value of using Georgia's All Hazards Council approach for obtaining homeland security funding. It's a process that underscores the fact that local authorities are the first responders, and that those of us working in state and federal agencies are here to provide them with the support they need to get the job done."

Director Sherberger said first responders around the state are already working on phase two applications for another expenditure of federal funds for future local homeland security initiatives."

For more information on homeland security efforts in Georgia, visit the Georgia Office of Homeland Security Web site at