County seeks additional anti-terrorism funding

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget Committee thinks $1.6 million in federal funding for bioterrorism prevention and response efforts isn’t enough for the county.

The committee has asked Gov. Gary Locke to increase the amount of money the county receives based on established risk criteria.

“Our region has already been a target of foiled terrorist attacks. The governor’s proposed $1.6 million allocation falls well short of what King County needs as the state’s largest population center,” said Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the Budget Committee. “Given our dense population, King County is more likely to be at risk from a terrorist attack than the rest of the state and will therefore require significantly more resources for preparedness planning, training, and implementation.”

Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan urged the state to “recognize the importance of building the response infrastructure and give King County the resources necessary to carry out our regional responsibilities.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $1.1 billion to help states strengthen their capacity to respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies resulting from terrorism. In the first distribution, Washington will receive $18 million. King County’s $1.6 million is coming from that.

Councilwoman Jane Hague said the county worked with the National Association of Counties so that Washington “would get its fair share of prevention dollars, but if the money doesn’t trickle down to King County, it was all for naught.”

Budget Committee members said King County needs more money to thwart potential bioterrorism because the county:

• Is a likely target area in a major terrorist attack.

• Has a large number of hospitals and the region’s only Level IV trauma unit.

• Is comparable to metropolitan areas that have received significant funding for preparedness. Chicago, for instance, has received $11 million, according to the committee.

• Federal dollars were distributed to states based largely on the basis of population.

“We’re taking a serious look at how we can protect our region with a meager amount of money,” said Phillips.

The funds will be used to develop comprehensive bioterrorism preparedness plans, upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation, enhance the readiness of hospital systems to deal with large numbers of casualties, expand public health laboratory and communications capacities, and improve interaction between hospitals and health departments to enhance disease reporting.

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