As those of us in the emergency management field know very well, the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) Program is essential for maintaining emergency management programs across the nation. The EMPG is not related to homeland security funding that was made available by the federal government in the years following September 11, 2001. No, instead, the Program is a federal grant that is designed to assist state and local government develop and carry out emergency management programs.
Texas Emergency Management ONLINE recently noted that approximately 56 states and territories participate in the federal EMPG program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When Texas receives its allocated EMPG funds, it is one of the few states that will pass a portion of those funds through to local jurisdictions to reimburse them for emergency management program expenses. For local governments, the state of Texas requires a 50 percent match for every federal dollar of EMPG funding provided (Texas Emergency Management ONLINE, 2011, Vol 58, No 2).
Without this program, many Texas jurisdictions would lack funding for an Emergency Management Coordinator, even a part-time coordinator. Given the threats from natural hazards and technological hazards, it is vitally important that Texas communities have the ability to develop emergency management programs and dedicate time and resources to preparing for events such as hurricanes, ice storms, pipeline blowouts, terrorism, etc…. In FY 2010, a total of 115 jurisdictions in Texas were approved to receive more that $5 million from the EMPG program.
The expectation of the average citizen is that its jurisdiction will be able to respond effectively to disasters. However, without funding, and, of course, commitment from elected officials who make budget decisions, it is unlikely that any jurisdiction will effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events. Ellis Stanley, in his testimony before the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Committee on Appropriations, US Senate a few years ago, argued forcefully, not only for the maintenance of the EMPG program, but for budgetary increases in the Program.
Stanley, General Manager of the Emergency Preparedness Department of the City of Los Angeles, California noted that EMPG “funding is the single most effective use of federal funds in providing emergency management capacity to state and local governments. No other source of homeland security funding is based on a consensus building process determining outcomes and specific deliverables backstopped by a quarterly accountability process. This program, which is cost shared, provides the funding for the emergency managers who perform the role of the “honest broker” at the state and local level and who establish the framework for preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. EMPG is used for personnel, planning, training, and exercises at both the state and local levels.”
The President’s Budget Request for FY 2012 was made public this morning. An initial glance at the document indicates that the budget request includes $350 million for the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program. I do not remember exactly, but I think this is within the range of the total budget for last year. This is good news, but there is a long way to go before the FY 2012 Budget is adopted. It is my hope that the EMPG program makes it through relatively unscathed during the upcoming budget proceedings— it is of critical importance to Fort Bend County, the State of Texas, and communities across the nation.