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Golden says federal funding could help rural Maine communities struggling to staff local police

Ebola Nurse Quarantined Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
State troopers are stationed across from the house of nurse Kaci Hickox in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. State officials are going to court to keep Hickox in quarantine for the remainder of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola that ends on Nov. 10. Police are monitoring her, but can't detain her without a court order signed by a judge.

As county sheriffs struggle to find enough staff and resources to patrol large rural areas, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden says federal funds could help communities like those in his district in Maine.

He and a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would inject $7 billion into the federal COPS Grant Program over the next decade, which could help rural and low-income communities increase wages and recruit and train more officers.

"I want to see the changes that would make sure that those resources get dedicated to communities in Maine, rural communities in Maine that are currently, as you've seen locally on the ground, struggling with their workforce," Golden said.

Sheriffs departments have renegotiated resource sharing agreements with the Maine State Police in recent years, as state troopers face their own staffing shortages. That's put pressure on counties in Maine to find their own resources to fill in the gaps — and often driven up property tax rates to cover the costs.

Golden's bill would eliminate grant requirements that he said often favored larger, urban police forces — and ensure that rural communities have access to those funds.

Funding for the COPS program would more than double under the Biden administration's latest budget proposal for 2023.

But Golden is hopeful Congress might eventually authorize more permanent funding for the program this year.