Since 2005, almost $120 million has been cut from a federal program that helps local police departments hire new officers, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said he wants to reverse that money flow.

In a letter sent Thursday to the Senate appropriations committee by Sen. Robert Menendez and co-signed by Casey, the Democrats asked for an increased allotment for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grant program, as well as more cash for one that provides funding to local departments to buy bulletproof vests.

These programs "have been underfunded for years," Casey said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. "We simply cannot afford to ignore the problem any longer."

About $180 million for the COPS hiring program and $22.5 million for vests have been set for the 2014 fiscal year federal budget, which began Oct. 1. The senators are asking for $247 million and $30 million, respectively, in the upcoming budget.

Nearly $300 million was budgeted for COPS, and $30 million for vests in 2010.

The increases have a "good chance" of appearing in the final budget, Casey said, because of their bipartisan appeal and the relatively small amount of money needed.

"This is not even a rounding error in a federal budget," he said.

The COPS hiring program, which pays 75 percent of a new officer's salary for three years, has added 3,667 law enforcements officers to Pennsylvania's streets.

Shamokin's last two efforts to obtain COPS funding have failed. It was not selected for a COPS grant in 2009, when only 14 percent of applicants were awarded funding, and the application effort last year failed amid controversy.