Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2021 Homeland Security Funding Bill
WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2021 Homeland Security bill:
I commend Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Fleischmann for their admirable work on this bill in a year of unprecedented challenges. I thank the staff for their hard work to help craft the bill before us.
In the Congress, we have a special and urgent responsibility to provide the necessary resources that are critical to our security, and to respond quickly and effectively to new and emerging threats.
Since I first arrived in Congress nearly 32 years ago, and in particular after joining the Homeland subcommittee in 2007, I have been committed to doing everything possible to ensure our constituents in every corner of America are safe and secure.
We don’t agree on everything in this bill, but as I reflect on this Committee’s work, there is a remarkable and bipartisan track record of funding the evolving homeland security needs of our country. We have strengthened our security over the years by:
- Investing in the capabilities of first responders;
- Rebuilding after disasters like Superstorm Sandy;
- Supporting local social service organizations that provide food and shelter to at-risk members of our communities;
- Enhancing aviation security; and
- Preventing and better responding to acts of terror and hate.
Nearly two decades have passed since September 11th when nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives, including more than one hundred of my own constituents.
When I learned that first responders were unable to communicate with one another, reducing the effectiveness of the response on that tragic day, I introduced the CONNECT First Responders Act, and we created a $150 million grant program and an office at the Department of Homeland Security to ensure ineffective communications never again obstruct emergency response teams working to save lives.
We have made important progress over the years, but America is still not as safe as it should be. The sad reality is that we have seen a shocking increase in anti-Semitism and violent hate crimes in the last few years.
Three years ago, I established a $10 million non-profit security grant program for those outside of Urban Area Security Initiative – or UASI – regions.
This meant that non-profits outside of major metropolitan areas, like those in Rockland County, New York, could better protect themselves with increased security capabilities and have greater peace of mind. In FY 2020, this Committee successfully quadrupled that funding level to $40 million.
Shortly after the FY 2020 spending bill was enacted, a tragic, hate-filled stabbing took place in my district during a Hanukkah celebration. That anti-Semitic attack in Rockland is not an anomaly. What we are experiencing can only be called an epidemic of hate.
While non-profit security grants are not a panacea, I am optimistic that the combined $360 million this mark includes for UASI and non-UASI non-profit security grants could greatly help to prevent future attacks, particularly those aimed at racial, ethnic, or religious minorities.
This bill also addresses other growing crises.
The toll of the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. As a nation, we have lost more than 138,000 lives due to COVID-19, more than 18 percent of whom were New Yorkers. Our first responders continue to go above and beyond, many making the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities and country.
These last several months have made it clear that we must do more to safeguard the American people from the real manmade and natural threats we face.
To that end, the mark includes $10.6 billion for FEMA, including $5.6 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and $3.6 billion for Federal Assistance programs, such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
This bill as a whole will strengthen our security and keep Americans safe while upholding our American values of fairness and respect. Strong investments in modern, effective technologies will improve homeland security missions, from cybersecurity and disaster preparedness to border and maritime security.
It also provides resources to meet the humanitarian needs of migrants and, critically, it prohibits the administration from raiding funds for the President’s wasteful border wall.
Again, I thank Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Fleischmann for their work and would like to recognize the Homeland Security Subcommittee Majority staff led by Darek Newby and my Congressional office staffer, Fae Rabin and former staffer Jennifer Becker-Pollet.