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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

National Criminal Justice Association
Executive Directors Roundtable And Lunch
Washington, DC
March 5, 2009

It's a pleasure to be here. I want to thank NCJA for hosting this meeting and for all the hard work that Cabell and his staff have done to keep our stakeholders informed of the resources included in the Recovery Act. In particular, I appreciate their help in working with us to keep the State Administering Agencies informed.

As everyone here knows, the Recovery Act makes $4 billion available to the Justice Department to support criminal justice efforts. Two-point-seventy-six billion dollars of that money will be administered by the Office of Justice Programs. I'm sure you're all familiar with the break-down of those funds, but let me run through it quickly:

  • $2 billion will be available to states and local jurisdictions through the Byrne JAG formula grant program. These funds are intended to support a wide range of criminal justice activities - from drug and gang task forces, to courts and corrections, to treatment and victim services. We've just posted state and local allocations on the BJA Web site, and the solicitation and some FAQs are forthcoming. (Just a note on the formula - 60 percent is allocated for states, and 40 percent is set aside for local governments.)
  • An additional $225 million is allocated for the Byrne Competitive Grants Program. We'll be looking at programs that promote hiring and that are evidence-based. We'll also have an emphasis on community prevention and areas such as neighborhood-based probation and parole, forensics, mortgage fraud, victim assistance, and problem-solving courts. I want to mention that Byrne competitive funding complements COPS Office funding of sworn officers by allowing agencies to hire civilian and support personnel. We believe this is important because it helps agencies to design and implement more well-rounded, comprehensive strategies for reducing crime.
  • There's also another $125 million to help law enforcement agencies in rural areas fight crime, particularly drug-related crime. I want to mention that we will give priority to those applicants that are not eligible to receive a direct JAG allocation. We've also been working with NCJA and others of you to develop a sound working definition of "rural."
  • $40 million is set aside for law enforcement agencies along the southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat narcotics trafficking. $10 million of that will go to ATF.
  • $50 million is allocated for the Internet Crimes Against Children Program.
  • $225 million is set aside for the construction of tribal correctional facilities.
  • And $100 million is available for victim assistance and victim compensation programs, and for victim-centered training, technical assistance, and demonstration projects.

We estimate that some 12,000 additional grants are possible as a result of Recovery Act funding. This new money is a big infusion, so naturally the question arises as to how prepared are we to administer it.

Early on in the stimulus debate in Congress, OJP established a high-level working group to plan for the distribution of any stimulus funds, and we worked to refine our strategy as the stimulus bill moved forward. As I mentioned earlier, we've also been working closely with NCJA to communicate this information to the SAAs.

Also, I know from having served as Assistant Attorney General during the Crime Bill era that OJP has the means and the experience to move a lot of money quickly and with the necessary controls in place to ensure that it's used effectively.

Getting this money out is our highest priority. We've already posted synopses of all formula grant solicitations on Grants.gov, and synopses of discretionary programs are being posted on Monday. Full program announcements for all programs will be posted by March 19th.

Formula grant solicitations will be posted for 30 days, and discretionary solicitations will be posted for 30 to 60 days. Once the solicitations close, we plan to make formula awards within 15 to 65 days. And we plan to begin awarding the discretionary awards in late April.

Since the timelines are so tight, outreach is very important to ensuring that potential applicants are prepared. We're aggressively reaching out to potential applicants to make sure they know about the funding that's available and the process for applying. Our Web site directs visitors to our own Recovery Act page, which has links to solicitations and information on how to apply.

NCJA has been a very important part of our outreach effort, and we're asking that other national groups like yours help us spread the word about these resources and connect potential applicants to the help they need to apply. Hopefully, you all got my letter asking for your help in getting the word out. We want to make sure that no one is left out by virtue of the quick turnaround. Also, given that there are many pots of funding, all for different purposes, please encourage states and local jurisdictions to think strategically when applying for funds and to have a comprehensive strategy in place before applying. It's important that they understand the need to spend money wisely.

As award recipients and amounts are determined, and as we get information about grants, we'll post all that on Recovery.Gov, where taxpayers can see exactly where the money goes and how it's used.

We're going to be held highly accountable for Recovery Act funding, which in turn means that grants will be monitored very closely and performance measures will be taken very seriously. We're working on developing performance measures, which will be included in the individual program solicitations. There will be a few standard Recovery measures, such as job creation and retention, then some specific measures. All measures will be collected quarterly - within 10 days of the end of the quarter, to be exact, and we're asking that grantees report using our online Performance Measurement Tool.

A couple of words about the President's 2010 budget request and the 2009 omnibus. His top-line request includes a three-and-a-half percent increase over the 2009 budget for the Justice Department, which will allow for more funding for law enforcement hiring, among other things. In terms of OJP funding, the budget request includes $109 million for offender reentry programs, $75 million of which would come to OJP for programs authorized by the Second Chance Act.

We don't yet have our final request numbers, or the details of what the President will request for OJP. The next phase of the process will be the agency detail review, and we anticipate those details will be sent to Congress the week of April 20th.

We're also on stand-by for the '09 omnibus appropriations bill (now in the Senate).

The current house version includes $2 billion for OJP grants, including $546 million for Byrne JAG.

There's not much more that we can say on that point, except "stay tuned."

That, in a nutshell, is where we stand on the Recovery Act and our budget. I want to thank all of you for your support as these measures have moved forward, and I want to thank you in advance for your help in getting the word out about available funding.

I also want to say "thanks" again to Cabell and his staff for their good work, and for their commitment to getting these resources out to our state and local partners.

Thank you.

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