- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s senators called on Congress on Friday to fully fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because emergency officials in the state are relying on the funding.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse say the department is at risk of a partial shutdown when it runs out of money at the end of the month. They said they’re disappointed some Republicans are engaging in a partisan battle and holding the funds hostage to protest the administration’s immigration policies.

Reed said the funding is critical to communities and the nation’s security.

Whitehouse added, “This is a continuing saga between the moderate and extremist Republicans and I hope that the moderates and the people who want to govern sensibly can prevail in this, so that we can go forward.”

Reed and Whitehouse discussed the potential effect on Rhode Island at Reed’s office in Cranston. They said a funding lapse could significantly delay grants first responders rely on for equipment, and make it harder for Rhode Island to be reimbursed with federal funds for the cost of digging out from recent snowstorms.

Since 2002, local fire departments have received more than $50 million from DHS for gear and new equipment, Reed said.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency receives $7 million annually from the department, which is the bulk of its funding, Reed added.

“Without that, they can’t plan for emergencies and they can’t react effectively to emergencies,” Reed said. “So this goes right to every community in this state.”

Reed said RIEMA’s operations would continue, but would become gradually less effective. Transportation Security Administration agents would report to work at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, but they wouldn’t be paid, Reed added.

Reed and Whitehouse are urging Congress to bring the department’s appropriations bill promptly to a vote.

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