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Washington, DC – The Fiscal Year 2008 Emergency Supplemental Bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes an additional $490 million to the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced today.

This emergency funding, approved by the Appropriations Committee at Thursday’s markup, would restore funding cut last year. The Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008 included $660 million for the Byrne/JAG program. Under threat of a Presidential veto, the funding was slashed last year by 70 percent, to $170 million, in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

If this funding is not restored, important anti-drug and anti-gang task forces across the United States will be in jeopardy. For California, that means at least 22 state and local law-enforcement task forces will go out of business, and 100 law-enforcement officers would be laid off on July 1.

“Slashing the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program is simply unacceptable to me and to the people of California,” Senator Feinstein said.

“This program is critical to public safety in California. It funds a broad range of law-enforcement programs -- from drug and gang task forces, to programs that assist victims of crime, including children. With violent crime on the rise, now is the time to ensure that law-enforcement in America is well-funded, not cut to the bone.”

“I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that this funding is restored. And so I want to thank Chairman Byrd, and Senator Mikulski, for making sure this funding is part of the Emergency Supplemental Bill.”

If the cuts to the Byrne/JAG program are not restored, California will see its funding this year slashed to $11 million this year, down from $33 million last year.

In California last year, Byrne Grants funded drug and gang task forces that:

  • Arrested 14,860 offenders, 8,900 of whom had drug and violent crime convictions;
  • Seized 2,130 weapons and $18 million in currency; and
  • Rescued 1,482 children from the scenes of narcotics crimes, including meth labs.

Byrne Grants also helped fund California’s Marijuana Suppression Program, which last year arrested 533 offenders – 353 of whom were convicted of marijuana-related charges – and seized nearly 400 weapons and more than $4.5 million in currency and assets.

For more than 20 years, grants from the Byrne Justice Assistance program and its predecessor programs have funded state and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs.

The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne Grants program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties.

Senator Feinstein is a long-time supporter of the Byrne Grant program. Last year, the Senate approved legislation – authored by Senators Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to reauthorize the program, at more than $1 billion, through FY 2012,

The program was named after New York Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.