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Stimulus funds to hire officers, help rural businesses

Local tribal law enforcement agencies will benefit from federal economic stimulus monies, White House officials said Tuesday.

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced $1 billion in grants to fund the hiring and rehiring of law enforcement officers under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants will be awarded to 1,046 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, including more than $11 million in grants to fund the hiring and rehiring of 53 officers in Minnesota.

The funds will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for the officers for three years. All police departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.

The grants include funding for:

- Leech Lake Tribal Council, one officer at $172,442.

- Pike Bay Township, one officer at $131,205.

- Park Rapids Police Department, one officer at $179,326.

- Red Lake Band of Chippewa, one officer at $160,114.

- Mahnomen County, one officer at $163,906.

"A big part of the Recovery Act is about building communities -- making them as strong as they can be, allowing every American family to live a better life than the one they are leading now," said Biden. "And we can't achieve the goal of stronger communities without supporting those who keep our streets safe."

The Recovery Act grants, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services through the federal agency's COPS Hiring Recovery Program, provide financial support to state, local and tribal governments, and will help the nation's law enforcement agencies add and retain the manpower needed to fight crime more effectively through community policing. The Department of Justice received more than 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 officer positions, representing a total of $8.3 billion in requested funding.

"I've always believed that the first responsibility of government is to protect the safety of its citizens," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., who was Hennepin County's chief prosecutor for eight years before her election to the U.S. Senate, said in a statement. "This funding will help law enforcement to prevent and reduce crime while providing jobs and much needed resources to local municipalities facing budget shortfalls."

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight responsibility for law enforcement issues.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of 145 recipients for more than $15.3 million in grants to start or expand businesses in rural communities. Also through Recovery Act funding, businesses will be able to access critical capital that will help with start-up and working capital loans, building and plant renovations, transportation improvement, project planning and other business needs.

In addition to the $15.3 million that USDA Rural Development is providing for the 145 projects, recipients have raised $16 million from other sources, Vilsack said.

For example, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in Cass Lake will receive an $83,149 grant to help the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe's Business Development Center provide training for area businesses to expand, thereby creating new jobs and spurring economic growth in the region, he said.

The funding also is expected to help lower chronically high unemployment and poverty rates among American Indians who live in the region. Since 1980, the Business Development Center has helped Indian-owned businesses grow, secure financing, write business plans and conduct market feasibility studies.

Four American Indian-owned businesses already have been selected to use the Rural Development funding to expand their operations, Vilsack said. Businesses in the 12-county region that are not owned by American Indians also expect to benefit from the jobs created by the tribe's Business Development Center.

"These Recovery Act grants represent the Obama administration's ongoing efforts to ensure strategic investments and increased economic opportunities in rural America," said Vilsack. "Small businesses play an important role in building strong communities while providing vital products and services to local residents. This funding will help spur economic development to strengthen communities in dozens of states around the country."