With fed funds left unspent, mayor rips department chiefs

City officials in charge of protecting San Francisco from disasters and terrorist attacks have left $60 million in Homeland Security funding unspent, drawing a stern rebuke from Mayor Gavin Newsom on Monday.

Despite the backlog of unspent security funding, officials said, there was no danger of losing the money and departments may be given more time to spend it.

Newsom warned department heads atMonday’s Disaster Council meeting that he wouldn’t accept “excuses” next year if they don’t put the money to work more readily.

Many department heads “didn’t follow up to the extent they should have,” Newsom said, when it came to spending Homeland Security funding, some of which was given to The City as far back as 2003. Newsom warned, “You’ve got to take this seriously and focus on this.”

Newsom’s remarks come on the heels of the federal government’s announcement last week that San Francisco would be receiving less funding than in previous years. The Bay Area as a region, including the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, will receive a total of $28.3 million in Homeland Security funding, while last year San Francisco alone received $18.6 million and the region $33.8 million. The Bay Area had applied for $333 million in Homeland Security funding.

To expedite the spending on Homeland Security funding, Newsom issued a directive last month requiring all departments to submit to the Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security by June 30 a spending plan for the grant money “as a baseline to track expenditures and verify that spendout rates are proceeding as planned.”

San Francisco is not alone in the spending lag, according to city officials.

“Every city in America has been struggling with the spending of the grants due to the strict federal regulations and city processes” one must go through to spend the money, said Laura Adleman, spokeswoman for the OESHS. She added, “We believe we’re on a good pace of getting these monies spent.”

Annemarie Conroy, head of OESHS, said the money is either “encumbered or programmed,” meaning it was earmarked for definitive Homeland Security projects in The City.

The OESHS is hosting a June 15 “grant training” meeting for department heads to ensure they meet the grant money deadlines.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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