Norcross Leads Full NJ Delegation Letter on UASI Funding Distribution
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) – a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee – led the New Jersey Congressional Delegation in writing a letter to Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor calling on the agency to more actively oversee the distribution of Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding, rather than abdicating that responsibility to state agencies. The letter calls on FEMA to ensure South Jersey communities are equitably included.
The bicameral, bipartisan letter is signed by Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Donald Payne, Jr., (NJ-10), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).
“While South Jersey is included in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metropolitan statistical area, we do not receive any of the funding from UASI. That’s not right,” said Congressman Norcross. “With Pennsylvania in charge of allocating funds, our communities will continue to be left out. We, too, need resources to address security concerns and emergency preparedness. The distribution of funding must be adjusted. South Jersey deserves its fair share.”
Full text of the letter follows and can be downloaded here.
The Honorable Peter T. Gaynor
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Dear Acting Administrator Gaynor:
We write to request your assistance in addressing a long-standing injustice that has prevented urban areas in southern New Jersey from receiving funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). As Members of Congress representing New Jersey, we request that you work with our delegation in reviewing the treatment of New Jersey and fairly allocate access to UASI funding.
Annually, since its inception, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has determined that the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area should be provided UASI funding. We understand that this determination has been made based upon security-risk factors, New Jersey's large population and the critical infrastructure located in all impacted areas. Yet, FEMA has, for years, allowed the government of Pennsylvania to decide if southern New Jersey should be eligible to receive any portion of the UASI funding and, in tum, allowed Pennsylvania to keep all UASI-area funding in-state only, instead of fairly distributing the funding to the full urban area.
Incidents of hate crimes are rising throughout the country and constituents of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have legitimate security concerns involving hate and violence. In 2018, according to the Federal Bureau of lnvestigation’s (FBI) Unified Crime Report, New Jersey experienced its third annual increase in hate crime incidents, with 561 incidents in 2018 alone. In contrast during the same period Pennsylvania reported just 67. While New Jersey reported 198 incidents of hate crimes targeting persons based on their religion, Pennsylvania reported 18. We hope these figures underline why we cannot allow state borders to prevent us from acting to stop attacks like those at the Charleston African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Chabad of Poway, California, or at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue.
Along the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania there are points of critical infrastructure that are at risk of terrorist action, such as the oil refineries and the Ports of Camden and Philadelphia. Those who would seek to do us harm do not care which bank of the Delaware River their targets lie on and it would be shortsighted to assume as much.
At every opportunity, Pennsylvania has decided to allow all eligible jurisdictions in Pennsylvania to apply for funding under the UASI program but refuses to allow for the review of applications from any non-Pennsylvania-based organizations in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metropolitan area. It is relevant to note that in designating jurisdictions for the "high-risk urban area" Pennsylvania has annually included jurisdictions that are designated as eligible for rural services by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While FEMA has made the determination to leave this decision-making to Pennsylvania, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 states that it is ultimately the responsibility of the FEMA Administrator to determine high-risk urban areas for the program.
For the sake of our State's security, we cannot accept Pennsylvania's use of the Delaware River as an imaginary outer border for the Philadelphia metro area. We urge you to expand the designated urban area for the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, honoring FEMA's commitment under the UASI program to support regional security.
We would also request FEMA elaborate on its strategy for ensuring the equitable dispersal of DASI funding to metropolitan areas with urban areas in multiple states. In the grant guidance for the UASI program, FEMA states that Urban Area Working Groups (UAWG) should include regional partners like mutual aid partners and local emergency management agencies. Has the Philadelphia UAWG reported to FEMA the inclusion of any such organizations from New Jersey or Delaware? How does FEMA evaluate if an inclusive regional approach is demonstrated in the grant application?
Our offices are grateful of your consideration and look forward to your response.
Contact: Carrie Healey, Communications Director