Thursday, April 2, 2009

Federal Stimulus package = Intergovernmental Grants

The stated purposes of the Federal Recovery Act as signed into law on February 17, 2009 are: to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery; to assist those most impacted by the recession; to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health; to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and to stabilize state and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases (US Dept of Justice).

Due to the high proportional cost of law enforcement in local government budgets, it is a real possibility that these essential services could be cut as other revenue sources (local government aid, etc) decrease. In order to maintain current levels of service with less revenue many state and local governments may look to increase other more stable revenue sources, such as property taxes. Increasing local taxes obviously counteracts any initiatives that the federal government enacts in order to stimulate the economy, so it must be with this purpose in mind that $2 billion in funding was allocated to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG). The program is designed to provide direct funding to state and local governments to support the following activities:
  • Law enforcement programs.
  • Prosecution and court programs.
  • Prevention and education programs.
  • Corrections and community corrections programs.
  • Drug treatment and enforcement programs.
  • Planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.
  • Crime victim and witness programs (other than compensation)
According to the US Department of Justice, Minnesota is eligible to receive $29,157,427 through this program. This dollar amount is calculated via a formula that determines a minimum base allocation which, based on the statutory JAG formula, can be enhanced by (1) the state’s share of the national population, and (2) the state’s share of the country’s Part 1 violent crime statistics. Once the state funding is calculated, 60 percent of the allocation is awarded to the state, and 40 percent to eligible units of local government. I was not able to find the actual formula that calculates the base, but the information from the federal government indicates that Minneapolis alone is eligible for $4.7 million in funding through this program.
After accepting these funds, recipients are required to provide quarterly financial reports and quarterly updates on the jobs created by the funds received.

Considering the drain that the criminal justice system can be on local government budgets this federal support may be a huge help as states drastically cut local government aid, due to their own budget shortfalls. However, these increased funding levels will only last for four years. Local governments would be wise to make any new programs created with these funds self-sustainable or utilize the next four years to stabilize their own budgets, so the new programs can continue after federal funds end.

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