President Donald Trump and a host of Nevada officials praised Las Vegas police and emergency responders for their rapid response to the mass shooting Sunday that left 58 dead and nearly 500 wounded — but the proposed budget backed by the president would likely cut the flow of federal funds that helped make the response possible.
Nevada received $11.1 million in federal funds in Homeland Security grants for the 2017 fiscal year, including $2.8 million directed to Las Vegas specifically as part of the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program. But the federal budget proposed by Trump and approved by the House of Representatives this week could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of lost federal funding for the state.
Although police officials have been hesitant to characterize the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, as a terrorist, the shooting has renewed and highlighted long-standing concerns from Nevada leaders that the federal government is short-changing funding for grants that help fund state emergency response, training and equipment for tourist destinations such as Las Vegas.
The Trump administration proposed cutting the Urban Area Security Initiative grant program from $605 million to $449 million in the current fiscal year, and require localities including Las Vegas — which received roughly $3 million for the program in 2016 — to pony up for 25 percent of the grants, which are spent on training and equipment for bomb and hazardous-material squads.
Overall, the administration’s plan would cut nearly $300 million from various homeland security grant programs, which it has justified with concerns that state and local governments that receive the grants aren’t spending the entire amount.
“The federal government cannot afford to over-invest in programs that state and local partners are slow to utilize when there are other pressing needs,” according to a written justification from the Trump administration reported by the Associated Press.
Republican Sen. Dean Heller seized on the shooting to underscore the need to revise the formula used to determine eligibility for the grant program, and said he brought up the funding formula while traveling with the president aboard Air Force 1 this week.
“This week’s tragedy in Las Vegas underscores the need for Homeland Security to reconfigure its risk profile assessment formula and direct more federal resources to the city,” said Heller in a statement to the Nevada Appeal on Thursday. “The Urban Area Security Initiative is critical to keeping both Las Vegas residents and tourists safe.”
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus also criticized the proposed grant cuts, saying in May that the administration’s budget was a “slap in the face” that would increase the burden on local law enforcement agencies without increasing safety.
The UASI grant program has long been an area of concern for the state’s federal delegation, especially after Las Vegas was left off the list of cities receiving grant funds in 2013. It’s even perturbed Gov. Brian Sandoval, who in 2016 said that the state shouldn’t have to continue begging the federal government to be included on the list of localities receiving the funds.
“It seems we have to make this case over and over again,” he said in January 2016. “I don’t understand.”
In addition to the Las Vegas-specific UASI grant, Nevada also received $3.7 million as part of the State Homeland Security Program and $4.5 million through the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program — both of which help fund the state’s Division of Emergency Management, which helps coordinate the state response to emergency situations from mass shootings to natural disasters such as wildfire response or earthquakes.
Agency head Caleb Cage said that the agency has been kept busy this summer dealing with emergency response to wildfires and historic flooding in northern Nevada, and that preparing and training a response to mass shooter or terrorism-related events was one of the agency’s top priorities.
“While there’s a difference between a man-made event and natural disaster, an awful lot of the mechanics of response are going to be the same,” he said.
Further cuts would continue a trend for the division, which estimates that federal homeland security grant funding has decreased by 68 percent since 2005.
Other funding reductions come in many ways — a recent $500,000 grant awarded to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department through the Countering Violent Extremism grant program would be entirely eliminated by the 2018 fiscal year under the proposed federal budget.