Vermont receives $20 million for homeland security

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(Host) According to the Dean administration, the state of Vermont is set to receive at least $20 million in Homeland Security Funds in the next few weeks. Most of the money will be administered by two state agencies – the Health Department and Emergency Management Department.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the next month, Congress is expected to give its final approval to legislation that will allocate more than a billion dollars to help individual states beef up their antiterrorism programs.

Although the exact spending totals have not been finalized, it’s likely that the Vermont Health Department will be awarded just over $6 million and the state’s Emergency Management Department could receive as much as $15 million.

Health Commissioner Dr. Jan Carney says her Department has already submitted a grant proposal to the Centers for Disease Control. The grant would expand the Department’s laboratory capabilities and allow the state to set up a more effective tracking and surveillance system for bio terrorism attacks:

(Carney) “And we’re looking at things such as small pox, anthrax, plague, botulism, certain viral hemorrhagic fevers. And the one people have heard of are things like Ebola and a variety of diseases that we must be able to respond to 24 hours a day, seven days a week on an emergency basis.”

(Kinzel) Carney says the money will also be used to improve the state’s health alert network:

(Carney) “Some of the most important areas that we’ve learned from – the anthrax experience and here in Vermont we had to respond to that on a smaller scale – was the importance of making sure that we have an active, ongoing health alert network system, which is that communication between public health officials doctors nurses and hospitals and also the information technology that supports that.”

(Kinzel) Emergency Management Director Howard Rice expects most of his agency’s money will be spent on improving the state’s critical infrastructure to respond to emergencies. Rice says towns will be encouraged to apply for grants that will give additional resources their first response teams:

(Rice) “Many towns and communities don’t have the same communications systems which we found out, many police agencies don’t. So there’s been some investigation into making sure that regions and the towns within the region can talk to each other.”

(Kinzel) The grant proposals will be presented to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee for their review in about a month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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