A new study by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) shows that the nation's cities continue to wait for the federal homeland security funds that municipal officials say they desperately need. The organization's survey of 215 cities found that, as of December, more than three out of four cities had not received money from the $1.5 billion that the federal government allocated in fiscal year 2003 to aid first responders. The report also examines cities' often frustrating experiences with nine other federal homeland security programs.

In a statement released with the survey, James Garner, USCM president and mayor of Hempstead, N.Y., noted that the “survey shows that there are still too many cities that have not received funds. As leaders of cities [that] must be prepared to move at any time to higher terrorism threat levels — just as we did [during the holiday season] — this is completely unacceptable.”

The report reinforces municipal leaders' frustrations with the way federal homeland security funds are distributed. City officials have argued that the federal government should send homeland security money directly to cities; instead, generally speaking, those funds are sent to the states, which then distribute a certain percentage to local governments. “As I always say, homeland security money went to the states by Federal Express but came to cities by Pony Express,” Garner added in his statement. “This report is a national call for improving the system, and we look forward to sharing these findings with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress.”

Seventy-six percent of the surveyed cities said they have not received funding from the First-Responder/Critical Infrastructure Program. That percentage is an improvement from a similar survey that USCM released in August, in which 90 percent of the cities had yet to receive the funding, which was due to local governments at the beginning of that month. In the new survey, of the cities that have not received first-responder funding, 31 percent had been notified that they will receive funds, while 45 percent had neither received funds nor been notified that they would. Also, 59 percent said they did not have an adequate opportunity to influence their states about how the funds could be used in their cities.

City officials have had a similarly frustrating time with the State Domestic Preparedness Program. Sixty-four percent of the surveyed cities had not received funds from the program as of December, which is down from 80 percent in August. Of the cities that had not received money by December, 41 percent had been notified that they would receive funds, and 23 percent had neither received any money nor been notified that they would. Forty-nine percent of the cities complained that they could not adequately influence the use of the funds in their city.

Also, 46 percent of the surveyed cities that provide law-enforcement help to airports have not been reimbursed for increased security expenses. Also, 64 percent of the surveyed cities eligible for port-security grants say they have not received funds.