When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law last year, many in the campus safety and security community were hopeful that some of the stimulus package’s $787 billion would be dedicated to school, university and hospital protection efforts. According to the Campus Safety Stimulus survey, however, the perception among the majority (70 percent) of campus law enforcement, security and emergency management professionals is that their institution’s overall safety and security efforts did not receive any stimulus funds and that they won’t receive Recovery Act money anytime soon.
That leaves a small minority of respondents who said that so far, their institutions directly (4 percent), indirectly (2 percent), or directly and indirectly (1 percent) received stimulus funds. An additional 15 percent said they haven’t received stimulus money yet, but will or hope to in the next one or two years.
But these numbers don’t explain the entire stimulus story. Some of the ARRA grants and funds have augmented campus safety and security programs in ways that are not easily measured or recognized, according to National Strategies Principal Roy Cales. “A lot of universities are plugging their infrastructure holes with stimulus money, which means they’re not having to cheat from other grants and sources to fund those pieces,” says the consultant for the education and healthcare industries.
On the K-12 side, the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund has been used to stave off state budget cuts to education as well as to enable school districts to make onetime investments that would result in a better-prepared workforce.
In a statement released by the U.S. Department of Education Feb. 1, government officials claimed that although state and local budgets remain strained, most school systems throughout the country would be facing more severe fiscal situations without this funding. The department further claimed that as a result of the Recovery Act, since its inception, it has supported approximately 400,000 positions, including teachers, principals, librarians, counselors, corrections officers, public health personnel and construction workers.
Construction Projects Show Promise
This information is all well and good for the politicians, but when it comes to obtaining actual dollars, campus police and security departments have been struggling. The process of obtaining both ARRA and non-stimulus government grants is convoluted and complex, to say the least.
Still, some campuses are having success, primarily with new construction projects. The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, just announced more than $123 million in ARRA grants to support the construction of new scientific research facilities at 11 universities. The University of Pittsburgh ($15 million), University of Maine ($12.4 million), Purdue University ($11.8 million) and Georgetown University ($6.9 million) are just some of the institutions that have been awarded these funds.
Build America Bonds have lowered interest rates, which have encouraged capital projects for not-for-profit hospitals, schools and public safety. Although this program is set to expire in December, it may be extended if President Barack Obama’s proposals are approved.
The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities Web site lists some of the new construction opportunities for schools and school districts. A portion of all campus construction dollars, be they for K-12 districts, hospitals or universities, should be dedicated to safety, security and emergency management.