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Rural Advocates Want Share Of Homeland Security Money

posted on March 25, 2005


The internal watchdog for the Environmental Protection Agency warned this week that cities are NOT getting all the protections ordered by President Bush to detect a biological terrorism attack.

The EPA's inspector general says her office cannot ensure the reliability, timeliness and efficiency of air sampling tests mandated under the BioWatch early warning system. EPA says it's already trying to improve the system using the inspector general's recommendations.

Large cities, like those attacked on 9/11, have been the focus of much of the effort to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. But rural areas also are concerned and now are pressing the government for the means to prepare.

 

Rural Advocates Want Share Of Homeland Security Money

In a national survey, sponsored in part by the Harvard School of Public Health, 18% of the 18 rural states polled, received high rankings for bioterrorism preparedness. Just 6% of the states received "readiness" funding from a Center for Disease Control and Prevention pilot program. By comparison, 63% of the urban states ranked high on the preparedness list, and 75% received federal funding.

The study comes as the Homeland Security Department is proposing awarding federal aid to states and localities based on the level of threats they face. Rural areas fear the proposal would dramatically cut funding for their emergency responders.

Paul Kuehnert, Executive Director, Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness in Maine's Dept. of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health: "We want to emphasize, rural America is vulnerable to bioterrorism and other public health threats."

At a press conference this week, rural public health officials pointed out vulnerabilities unique to rural America, which include: the food supply, water supply and energy sourcesincluding nuclear power plants  and military installations.

Representative John Peterson, (R) Pennsylvania:"But if a city is a target, where will those people go? Will they be taken then 300 miles down the road to another city. No. they will disperse as quickly as possible in rural America and rural America needs to be somewhat ready to serve them. "

Rural public health officials are calling for a government accountability study of rural America's preparedness to address bioterrorism. They want congressional briefings held on rural readiness to respond to emergencies. And they are asking Congress to direct national agencies  including the Centers for Disease Control  to evaluate medical approaches to address public health threats in rural communities.

Paul Kuehnert, Executive Director, Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness in Maine's Dept. of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health: "We believe these 3 actions will set us off on a path of better preparedness in rural America."

An amendment was pushed through the Senate last week to increase Homeland Security's budget by $855(M) million  largely to ensure small and rural states don't feel a funding cut.


Tags: government money National Security news rural