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Four years later, state-funded campus security grant waiting for disbursement

By Mary Beth Versaci/For CU-CitizenAccess -- Nearly four years after a report on Illinois campus security recommended that $25 million be appropriated for the improvement of campus security across the state, no college or university has received any money, and state officials are just beginning to draft plans for a grant program using the funds.

“At this point, the program hasn’t been developed,” said Patti Thompson, Illinois Emergency Management Agency media contact. “There is no program for colleges to apply for grants.”

The Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program was one of two major recommendations made by a task force established by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. The purpose of the task force was to develop policies that would help Illinois campuses prevent, respond to, and recover from emergencies, particularly those involving mental health. Its report was released just two months after the shooting at Northern Illinois University.

The other recommendation found in the task force’s April 2008 report was the Campus Security Enhancement Act, which was passed and signed into law in August 2008.

The Illinois State Legislature did not appropriate $25 million for the grant program until fiscal year 2010 as part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program.  

The funds were supposed to be appropriated from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, but they were not yet available.

After being re-appropriated in fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2012, money from the sale of bonds is finally available for the Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has begun discussions surrounding the grant program.

They will work with the Illinois Capital Development Board to draft program rules, Thompson said.

The money will need to be spent on capital developments by the colleges and universities, but besides that rule, other specifics are not yet available.

Because of the nature of the grants and the experience the Capital Development Board has with grant programs, the grant money will actually go through the board, rather than the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, to the selected colleges and universities.

Until the Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program is further developed, however, colleges and universities do not know their eligibility regarding grant money or how they may use that money.

“It depends on what it’s earmarked for,” said Todd Short, director of the Office of Emergency Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It depends on how grant applications are worded.”

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