Proposed Grant Program Would Help Make DE Roads & Communities Safer

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A measure pending action in the Delaware House of Representatives proposes a $20-million one-time grant program to curtail the state’s rising traffic deaths, address crime concerns, and fully staff Delaware’s law enforcement agencies. Rep. Mike Smith says his proposal, House Bill 39, is not a solution but rather a way to help police agencies start to meet their challenges before the situation gets worse. The proposal would create the Expanded Protection for Our Communities and Homes – or EPOCH – Grant Program with a one-time appropriation to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS).  The department would distribute the money in lump sum allotments to more than 50 state, county, municipal, and university law enforcement agencies designated in the bill. Each agency would report annually on their use of the allocation – a minimum of $50,000 – and any portion of the grant unused and unencumbered after three years would revert to the General Fund.

Additional information from the State House Republican release:

Each participating agency would get a minimum allotment of $50,000, with the balance of the grant determined via a per capita distribution based on the number of uniformed law enforcement officers authorized for each agency at the start of the new fiscal year (July 1, 2023).

Law enforcement agencies receiving the grants would have up to three years to use them. The funding could be used to promote careers in law enforcement, initially pay the salaries of newly hired officers, pay overtime to stretch the capabilities of short-staffed agencies, and implement programs designed to improve public safety.

In 2021, there were 139 traffic fatalities on Delaware’s roads – the highest number since 2006.  Last year, The First State recorded 165 traffic deaths, matching an all-time high set 34 years ago (1988).

Troubling concerns over public safety have also been raised.  A group of Delaware State University students came to a Joint Finance Committee budget hearing last week to express their apprehensions following a series of sexual assaults on the main campus.

Each agency receiving EPOCH Grant allocations would be required to report annually to the DSHS detailing their use of the allocation.  The department would compile the information, share it with legislators and the governor, and post it online for public inspection.


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