Orlando's anti-terrorism funding doubles this year to $3.25 million


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Orlando's getting $3.25 million in anti-terrorism funding this year, and that's more than double what the city took up last year, according to state representatives.

It's the latest result from a push by three Florida politicians to secure more funding after Orlando — a major tourist hub that's home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios — received zero dollars from fiscal years 2015 through 2017.

Funding started back up again last year, with the city getting $1.5 million, according to data provided by the office of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park.

Murphy, along with fellow Central Florida U.S. representatives Val Demings, D-Orlando, and Darren Soto, D-Orlando, had fought for more funding for the city.

“Orlando is one of our nation’s most popular destinations and home to a vibrant community that has endured tragedy and loss. Residents and visitors alike should know the federal government is providing the support needed to protect them from terrorist threats,” Murphy said in a prepared statement. “Their safety must be our No. 1 priority."

Some 75 million people visited Orlando in 2018, making it the most-visited destination in the U.S., according to tourism officials with Visit Orlando. Orlando International Airport ranked as the busiest airport in the state.
“I am grateful that Central Florida is receiving the funding we need to ensure that our communities remain safe places to live, work, worship, and visit,” Demings said in a prepared statement. “Security is our top priority, and with these grants, the federal government is doing its part to help ensure we remain ahead of those seeking to do harm.”

The lawmakers had called on the Department of Homeland Security to revise the algorithm it uses to determine what parts of the country will receive funds through its Urban Areas Security Initiative program.

They wanted to ensure the algorithm's undisclosed formula takes into account factors like the amount of foreign and tourist visitors and high profile events that go on in the tourist hub.

That being said, the effort for more funding was in part catalyzed by events like the Pulse mass shooting, which left 49 dead at a nightclub in the city.

“Orlando metro has faced multiple threats in the past years, adding alarming risks to the safety and well-being of our community," Soto said in a prepared statement. "These funds will enhance our law enforcement’s preparedness and prevention methods. We will continue to invest and strengthen our security measures to combat all terrorist activity in Florida.”

The funds will be controlled by the Urban Area Work Group, which is headed by Orange County Sheriff's Office. The office provided a breakdown of how funds will be spent on Friday, projecting to use $3,055,000 on various projects.

Each project is ranked based on priority, with priority one listed as $40,000 in funds for the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange, an intelligence agency that analyzes terrorism and crime data.

The biggest cut will go toward a project that went unfunded the year before — a $581,679 retrofit mobile command post, listed as the last priority.

A large portion of the funds, $339,840, will finance a regional license plate reader, listed as priority nine.

Separate from the $3 million, three Orlando-area nonprofit Jewish community organizations received altogether $270,000 after applying for non-profit security grants in line with the city's terrorism funding.

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