Leahy And Vermont State Police Announce Victory Over The Trump Threat To Withhold Anti-Crime And Anti-Heroin Task Force Funds

. . . Trump Administration Withheld More Than $2 Million In Grants Over Immigration Policy Dispute

WASHINGTON (MONDAY, Feb. 25, 2019) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a victory following a two-year long dispute with the Trump administration, on Monday announced that approximately $2.3 million in Department of Justice grants to fund public safety needs and combat the opioid epidemic in Vermont will finally be released. 

In 2017, the Vermont State Police was awarded a $1.3 million COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) grant that, in addition to two-years’ worth of Byrne Justice Assistance formula grants totaling roughly $1 million, were withheld by the Department of Justice due to the Trump administration’s controversial and ill-founded immigration policies regarding so-called “sanctuary cities.”  Leahy and the Vermont Department of Public Safety (VDPS) repeatedly pushed back against the administration and successfully argued that VDPS was in compliance with federal law.

Leahy said:  “Vermont law enforcement agencies rely on these grants to keep our communities safe and to tackle the opioid epidemic.  By threatening this important work over an unrelated dispute on immigration policy, the Trump Justice Department overstepped its bounds and endangered our families and communities.  Its actions unfairly targeted Vermont by placing arbitrary conditions on these grants — conditions that federal courts across the country have consistently found to be illegal.  I’m proud of VDPS and the Vermont State Police for holding their ground with me to protect Vermonters and keep our communities safe.”

Leahy authored the AHTF grant program after drawing from testimony presented at a 2014 field hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Leahy chaired in Rutland, which examined community responses to heroin and opioid addiction.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy championed a $22 million increase for the grant program for a total $32 million in fiscal year 2018, and he led in sustaining that level in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills that were signed into law earlier this month.  

Despite the AHTF grant program’s success and the opioid epidemic that continues to devastate communities, the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to eliminate the program, only to be rebuffed by bipartisan support in Congress.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693