Today, Representatives Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto announced that Orlando will be the recipient of $1,500,000 in anti-terrorism funding under the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative. Rep. Demings, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, cited Orlando’s numerous soft targets and world tourism destination status as potential reasons our city may be a target, and in need of more funding to prevent an attack and Rep. Murphy agrees.
“I am gratified that Orlando is back on the list to get the vital anti-terror funding we need and deserve,” Rep. Demings said. “Our community thrives on tourism and travel. Enormous recreational hubs are magnets for economic activity and make us a world destination, but they also make us a potential target. Our community has personal experience with tragedy. Every one of us, and every visitor to Central Florida, should feel safe while enjoying a day of fun, a night of entertainment, a morning of worship, or in the workplace. We must be ever-vigilant as we work to stay safe. I am working hard on the House Homeland Security Committee to make sure that Orlando has every tool it needs to prevent future attacks.”
The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) provides funding to help with anti-terrorism planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas which could be targeted. The last time Orlando received funding under the program was 2014. Last year, Rep. Demings strongly criticized the decision to leave Orlando off the list. As Orlando’s former Chief of Police, Rep. Demings previously oversaw the use of UASI funding by OPD.
“I have argued that because of our large targets and high visitor counts, Orlando should be placed higher on the list when distributing anti-terror funding,” Rep. Demings stated. “I am glad that the Department of Homeland Security put my requested changes into practice, using more accurate data sources, and placing Orlando back in contention for funds to ensure that all of us can stay safe.”
“Protecting our families and communities must always be a top priority,” Rep. Murphy said. “As one of the nation’s most popular destinations, Orlando needs and deserves federal support to keep residents and visitors safe. I’m proud to have successfully fought alongside Congresswoman Demings and Congressman Soto to bring this anti-terrorism funding back to Central Florida so local law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations have the resources they need to prevent tragedies.”
“These federal funds are critical to strengthen public safety in central Florida,” added Rep. Soto. “Not too long ago, our community endured a tragic act of terrorism at the Pulse nightclub shooting, becoming one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in our nation since September 11th. UASI funds will enhance preparedness and prevention against terrorist threats and other disasters. We will continue the push for federal funds to better equip our local law enforcement and ensure safety for our residents and the millions of visitors to central Florida each year.”
In total, law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations in 32 cities around the nation—including Orlando, Tampa and Miami—will receive UASI funding this year. They can use this funding to buy homeland security equipment, conduct training exercises, train and pay first responders, and enhance security in order to protect high-profile locations like stadiums, public transit, theme parks, and Jewish Community Centers.
In addition, because Orlando will receive UASI funding, non-profit organizations in the city will automatically become eligible to apply for Nonprofit Security Grants through DHS. In addition, LYNX and SunRail can now apply for Transit Security Grants from the agency, while owners and operators of private bus companies that serve Orlando can apply for DHS Intercity Bus Security Grants.