Politics & Government

More stimulus funds headed for South Carolina

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday released almost $38 million in economic-stimulus funds for South Carolina law-enforcement agencies, while federal transportation officials shipped the state more than $41 million for public transit systems.

While directing $2 billion to sheriff’s offices and police departments across the country, Obama defended the $787 stimulus bill he signed into law last month in the face of new data on job losses that drove the national unemployment rate to 8.1 percent.

"By keeping police officers on the streets whose jobs were threatened by budget cuts and ensuring states and municipalities have the tools and equipment necessary to fight crime, this money will simultaneously help jumpstart the American economy," Obama said.

Dozens of law-enforcement agencies in South Carolina will divide $14.8 million in stimulus funds sent to them directly.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety will receive an additional $23.2 million, most of which will go to local agencies through competitive grants.

"We are very much looking forward to working with the sheriffs and chiefs of police in our criminal-justice agencies to solicit grant applications," said Bert Fitzpatrick, grants administrator for the state agency. "We want to get this money in hands of law enforcement as soon as we can."

Once those grants are awarded, law-enforcement agencies in the Midlands are expected to get more than $5.8 million, with $888,245 going to the Richland County Sheriff’s Office and $597,483 to the Columbia Police Department.

"The law-enforcement stimulus money is great," said Richland Sheriff Leon Lott. "It re-establishes funding that was previously taken away."

The Richland County Council has softened the impact of federal funding cut by replacing some of the lost funds, Lott said.

"The council makes sure we have the resources we need," Lott said. "It acknowledges that as the economy goes down, crime will go up."

South Carolina's unemployment rate is pushing 10 percent, making it the nation's third-highest.

Columbia city had hoped to fund Police Chief Tandy Carter's $8.9 million request to hire 92 more officers, but with $8 million in current and projected budget shortfalls, council members are having trouble finding the money.

"Like anybody that gets almost $600,000, you've got to be excited," Carter said Friday. "Certainly, this money is needed to help us tackle our most important needs."

Once those grants are awarded, coastal law-enforcement agencies from New Brunswick, N.C. to Charleston are expected to get $6.3 million.

Once those grants are awarded, Lowcountry law-enforcement agencies are expected to get $5.2 million. Law-enforcement agencies Rock Hill and surrounding areas are expected to get $2.1 million.

Local bus systems will share nearly $41.2 million in stimulus funds, with more than $24.5 million going directly to public transit agencies and $16.6 million to be dispersed through S.C. Department of Transportation grants.

:These federal funds will make our people safer and improve our transportation system, but most importantly they will keep people in their jobs and begin to stabilize our communities," said U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat.

The $79 million in transit and law-enforcement funds are part of the $8 billion that the state, local governments and individuals are designated to receive in stimulus money, including $1 billion in Medicaid payments and more than $2 billion in tax cuts.

Gov. Mark Sanford, who opposes the stimulus plan because it relies on deficit spending, has indicated he will reject at least some of South Carolina’s share of recovery money.

Aides to Sanford and Clyburn agreed Friday that the governor has no control over the new transit and law-enforcement funding.

Adam Beam of The State contributed to this account

Anti-crime stimulus money

Local law-enforcement agencies across South Carolina will get most of the state’s $38 million share of stimulus money released by President Barack Obama.

The local agencies will apply for $23 million in grants. An additional $15 million will go directly to the agencies:

Richland County Sheriff’s Office: $888,245

To see all South Carolina funding