WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today applauded his colleagues for adopting by voice vote an amendment that makes $1 billion available for first responders by October 1, 2006. These funds provide firefighters, police, and medical personnel with the necessary radio equipment to communicate with one another in the event of a terrorist attack or major disaster.
The amendment, offered by Senators David Vitter (R-La.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was agreed to during the Committee’s first day of markup of the Communications, Consumers’ Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act.
“I commend Senators Vitter and Boxer for leading the effort to ensure our nation’s first responders have funding for interoperable communications as quickly as possible,” said Chairman Stevens. “The unanimous support among our Members demonstrates this Committee’s commitment to our public safety community. Public safety is not a partisan issue.” Chairman Stevens also noted that Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) originally suggested the idea of making these funds available sooner.
Up to $250 million of the $1 billion would be distributed to each state and the federal government to establish caches of emergency communications equipment. The federal funds would be granted to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regional offices around the country. The offices are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Denton (Texas), Kansas City, Denver, Oakland, and Bothell (Wash.).
Under a proposal by Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) contracts would be prenegotiated so that the equipment would be available immediately from the private sector if a disaster occurs.
The majority of the remaining $750 million would be allocated based on threat and risk, with the rest divided among the 50 states for emergency equipment and training. The Commerce Committee worked closely with first responder groups in crafting the legislation.
The Committee will continue its consideration of the Communications, Consumers’ Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 on Tuesday, June 27, 2006, at 10 a.m. in room 216 of the Hart Building .