Orlando to receive more than double in anti-terrorism funding this year

DHS approves Orlando for $3.25M terror-prevention grant


ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando is expected to receive more than double the amount of funding for terrorism prevention this year than the city was granted last year, according to Rep. Val Demings.

Demings announced Friday that the city will be the recipient of the $3.25 million terror-prevention and preparedness grant under the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative.

The increase from only $1.25 million in funding last year comes after Demings, along with Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Rep. Darren Soto, pushed for a stronger focus on protecting the tourists and international visitors who come to Central Florida, as well as the high-profile events they attend, according to a news release.

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Orlando just returned to the program last year after multiple years without anti-terror funding, the release said. The Homeland Security grant program is designed to help cities defend against terrorism-related incidents, like the attack at Pulse nightclub in 2016 that left 49 people dead and several others injured.

After the mass shooting, Orlando’s threat level did increase for 2017, but was not high enough to be included in the program, Demings said. Almost a year after the deadliest shooting in recent U.S. history Orlando actually dropped further down on the list to 38th.

Demings, who once served as chief of the Orlando Police Department, said last year's return to the program was a major win for the city.

"Last year, Orlando scored a major victory when we were re-added to the list for vital terror-prevention funding. I am thankful that we were able to replicate that success this year. Orlando’s record-breaking growth has been astronomical — a success story which has expanded the limits of our economy, appeal, and opportunities," Demings said. This funding is a critical element in protecting that success. I will continue working with our partners to ensure every resident and visitor to Orlando will be safe to enjoy all of what our incredible city has to offer."

Murphy said the funding is must-have for the city of Orlando, and the tragedy at Pulse made that even more clear.

“The Pulse nightclub shooting was a stark reminder that Orlando is vulnerable to acts of terrorism, and the federal government has a responsibility to provide the necessary support to help protect our city. Whether they are residents or visitors, members of our community deserve to feel safe," Murphy said. "That’s why I joined my colleagues in fighting to secure this anti-terrorism funding so that law enforcement has the tools it needs to prevent further tragedies and maintain public safety.”

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Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who was chief of the Orlando Police Department when the attack at Pulse nightclub took place, also commented on the grant Friday.

“I am thrilled that our region has received funding through the Urban Area Security Initiative to help enhance our fight against terror,” said Sheriff John Mina. “Our region – which draws more than 70 million visitors a year – will benefit greatly from this important program, and it will bolster our ability to keep our residents and visitors safe.”

Soto echoed those thoughts in a statement Friday, saying he's ecstatic over the increase in funding this year.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our citizens. Our community knows all too well the necessity of being ready for the unthinkable after enduring the pain of the Pulse nightclub shooting," Soto said. "As Orlando continues its growth as a thriving, bustling global city and welcoming thousands of tourists and new residents each year, it is imperative we ensure safety and prevent terror. We’re thrilled to receive additional funds for our area.”

The funding provided by the UASI program is meant to help with terror-prevention planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas that could be targeted.

The UASI program is providing a total of $590 million in funding to high-density urban areas across the country in the 2019 fiscal year. Orlando's portion of the funds will be shared among Orange, Lake, Brevard Osceola, Volusia and Seminole counties, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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