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U.S. doles out security grants to cities

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on September 26.)

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration doled out nearly $400 million Monday to help protect seaports, commuter trains and other transit systems from terrorists, boosting money to high-risk cities that saw funding cuts earlier this year.

Major winners included New York City, which won $79.5 million to secure its port, subways, bus and rail systems -- up from $50 million in 2005.

Losing cities that got no money for 2006 after being on the Homeland Security Department funding list last year included Memphis, Tenn., and Tampa, Fla., which lost funds for ports.

In all, the department distributed $399 million in grants -- up from $388 million last year -- to secure key buildings, transportation systems and other sites that might seem attractive targets for terrorists. The money follows a furor nearly four months ago after Homeland Security cut funding for New York and Washington, the two cities targeted on Sept. 11, 2001, by 40 percent.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the new round of department grants was given out based only on risk -- and should not be viewed as a competition to see which city gets the most money.

''What we're trying to do is move away from looking at grants as if every year, it's a horse race, and let's see who wins each race for each grant,'' Chertoff told reporters in Washington. ''If you want a horse race, go to Pimlico.''

But Chertoff said his department would take new steps to assure cities that future grant applications are understood and thoroughly discussed to prevent a similar outcry. The way Homeland Security announced the earlier grants for high-risk cities, awarded in May, ''was not what it should have been,'' Chertoff said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said boosting funds for New York ports and rail systems hopefully reflected ''a sign of things to come.''

If Homeland Security ''is finally admitting that they shortchanged New Yorkers and are looking to make recompense, then that is all for the good,'' Schumer said.

Department officials said many cities -- like Houston and Atlanta -- asked for fewer funds this year than what they received in 2005 because they no longer needed as much money for security projects that were completed or already under way.

The grants announced Monday included:

--$168 million for seaports.
--$135 million for commuter rail, bus, and ferry systems.
--$48 million for critical infrastructure, like water or electricity systems.
--$25 million for chemical plants.
--$7.2 million for Amtrak.
--$9.5 million for bus companies.
--$4.8 million for trucking companies.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

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