Hill Updates

House Passes AFG, SAFER, USFA Reauthorization, Sends Bill to Senate

Today, the House of Representatives passed S.870, the Fire Grants and Safety Act, by a vote of 393 to 13. S.870 would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program (SAFER), and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). For the past two years, CFSI and our partner organizations have been working tirelessly on this legislation and today’s vote is a positive step for our nation’s fire and emergency services. We extend our thanks to members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus who have been instrumental in the progress we have achieved to date.

The Senate must now act quickly on this bill before AFG and SAFER face a statutory sunset on September 30. In April of 2023, it approved an earlier version of S.870 by a vote of 95-2, but it will need to approve the House-amended version before it can be signed into law by the President. Specifically, this bill would reauthorize AFG, SAFER, and USFA through fiscal year Fiscal Year 2028 and extend the sunset date to September 30, 2030.

CFSI will continue to provide updates on imminent Senate action. In the meantime, click here to tell your Senators to pass S.870 and save AFG and SAFER.

Honoring the Late Senator Joe Lieberman, a Former Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus

The Congressional Fire Services Institute’s (CFSI) Board of Directors and staff extend their sympathies to the family of former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who passed away this week at 82.

Elected to the United States Senate in 1988, Senate Lieberman served four terms before retiring in 2012.  He was a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus in 2011 and 2012.  During the 112th Congress, Senator Lieberman sponsored the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act and the United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act, demonstrating his commitment to our nation’s first responders.  In addition, he was active in several other initiatives, including post-Katrina FEMA reform and the establishment of the public safety broadband network.  CFSI honored the Senator for his leadership on behalf of our nation’s fire service by presenting to him the 2012 CFSI Legislator of the Year Award.

“Senator Lieberman embodied the bipartisan spirit of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus,” said CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb.  “He understood the needs and challenges of the fire and emergency services and worked closely with CFSI and the other national fire organizations on federal legislation and programs to support our nation’s first responders.  It was an honor to have worked with him.”

Among the many tributes by his former colleagues, Fire Caucus Co-Chair Senator Susan Collins expressed the following statement:

“Senator Joe Lieberman was a dear friend, a wonderful Senator, and a true patriot.  He not only was one of the best legislators I have known, but also one of the best human beings.  We worked so closely together on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, passing numerous bipartisan bills.  I am heartbroken to learn of his passing.”

NATIONAL FIRE SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS URGE CONGRESS TO PROTECT AMERICA’S FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES

Without Reauthorization, Vital Fire Service Grant Programs Will Cease to Exist

Washington, D.C. – Today, 39 national fire and emergency services organizations stand united in support of the reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program (SAFER) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Without reauthorization, AFG and SAFER will sunset in less than one year, on September 30, 2024. 

The AFG and SAFER grant programs are imperative to addressing the needs of more than one million fire and emergency services personnel. Fire departments respond to more than 36 million calls for service each year. These calls span all hazards from structural fire and wildfire to lithium-ion battery and hazardous materials response, opioid overdoses and other medical emergencies, water rescue, active shooter and hostile events, terrorism, natural disasters, and much more. Even while they protect their communities from an ever-increasing range of hazards, fire departments across the country are struggling to properly train and equip fire and EMS personnel, as well as ensure that departments have proper staffing to meet minimum requirements for response. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) 5th Needs Assessment, “Fire service needs are extensive across the board.” Specifically, the report finds that “unmet needs for PPE [personal protective equipment] can be found in departments serving communities of all sizes, including one-third of the large departments…Among the smallest departments, 75 percent have at least some PPC [personal protective clothing] that is 10 years of age or older.” Ten years is the maximum lifespan recommended for PPE. Furthermore, “[more] than half (53 percent) of all fire departments cannot equip everyone with SCBA,” the breathing apparatus used by firefighters to do their jobs safely. The data shows that AFG and SAFER “must grow in order to address the considerable and multifaceted needs that continue to persist in the fire service.” The AFG and SAFER grant programs provide lifelines to fire and EMS departments across the nation that are caught in this battle of increasing costs and an acceleration of new missions. 

USFA also plays a vital role at the national level as the primary representative of the fire and emergency services in the federal government. USFA ensures that the fire service is prepared to respond to all hazards and is the lead federal agency for fire data collection, public fire education, fire research, and fire service training. Every year, USFA provides training and education to both the fire service and the general public across the country. Through the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), USFA also provides critical data on the state of fire and the fire service in America. USFA is a critical component in ensuring that the fire and emergency services are ready to respond to all hazards and must be reauthorized. 

“When 9-1-1 is called, every community across the country relies on their fire and EMS personnel to respond regardless of the incident type,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “39 national fire service organizations stand to call on Congress to reauthorize the AFG and SAFER grant programs and the United States Fire Administration.”

“Data from NFPA demonstrates how underprepared our nation’s firefighters are – and how important the federal grant programs are,” said Seth Statler,  Director of Government Affairs for the National Fire Protection Association. “Our most recent Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service found that significant needs exist for departments of all sizes and in every area, including staffing, training and certification, facilities, apparatus, personal protective equipment or PPE; and health and wellness.”

“The AFG and SAFER grant programs are lifelines for fire departments across the country. They provide crucial funding to cover operational costs, allowing us to maintain our readiness and effectiveness in serving our communities…They help us secure equipment, vehicles, and training resources that are essential for our daily operations. They provide funds to hire and retain firefighters, ensuring that we have adequate personnel to respond to emergencies promptly. Without this funding, we would struggle to maintain the level of service our communities rely on. We need to preserve these programs in the future.” said Chief John Butler, President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

“AFG and SAFER grants are essential to the survival of many volunteer departments throughout the country. Without these grants many volunteer departments would cease to exist,” said Chief Kevin Quinn of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “These departments often fundraise with boot drives and pancake breakfasts, but even those efforts combined with local tax dollars can’t provide the needed funding.”

“Fire fighters serve in a uniquely dangerous job. We routinely respond to inherently dangerous calls where lives are at risk. When seconds count, the public deserves to know that trained and prepared fire fighters are standing ready,” said Dave Hoagland, President of the Washington DC Firefighters Association, Local 36 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The AFG and SAFER programs will close next year unless Congress acts. IAFF members in DC and across the nation are proud to answer our neighbors’ calls. But if we’re not there to answer the call – there is no alternative to 911. Congress’ inability to reauthorize these programs directly jeopardizes the lives of fire fighters and the public as a whole. It’s time for Congress to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act.”

“This past May, 144 firefighters who died in the line of duty were honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, MD – 79 firefighters who died in 2022 and 65 who died in previous years. As of September 30th, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is aware of 100 reported firefighter fatalities this year,” said Victor Stagnaro, the CEO of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “Our nation’s firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities.  The AFG and SAFER grant programs are vital to ensuring our nation’s fire departments have the staffing, equipment, and resources they need to protect our communities and keep our firefighters safe.”

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The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program provides funds to help fire departments purchase much-needed gear and equipment and train personnel. Through the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants, the AFG program also helps to fund community risk reduction efforts and vital fire service research.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program provides funds to help departments recruit and retain personnel to ensure that they can meet minimum staffing requirements needed for emergency response. 

The mission of the U.S. Fire Administration is to support and strengthen fire and emergency medical services (EMS) and stakeholders to prepare for, prevent, mitigate and respond to all hazards.

For more information on AFG, SAFER, and USFA reauthorization efforts, see cfsi.org/support-afg-safer-and-usfa-take-action-now/.

Now Available: Grants for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced that it is soliciting grant applications for its new Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Grant Program (COPPGP), which will assist state, local, and tribal entities in reducing injuries and deaths due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Grant applications are being accepted through December 15, 2023. Application materials can be found via grants.gov.

CFSI and several members of CFSI’s National Advisory Committee were instrumental in advocating for the passage of the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2022, which authorized the grant program. The bill, which became law last year, was sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and John Hoeven (ND) in the Senate and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH) and Buddy Carter (GA) in the House. CFSI and our partner organizations also advocated strongly for appropriations to fund the grant program. Congress approved $2 million to fund the program in FY2023.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar Named CFSI 2022 Legislator of the Year

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) recently presented U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) with its 2022 Legislator of the Year award. 

Since 2007, Senator Klobuchar has served in the U.S. Senate representing the state of Minnesota. A member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, she has worked tirelessly on a variety of issues affecting her home state, including many issues that affect fire and life safety. Senator Klobuchar spent years working on carbon monoxide safety, most recently getting a bill signed into law that will create a grant program at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to help states and tribal entities improve carbon monoxide protection and awareness. She has supported legislation to encourage fire sprinkler retrofits and has also been a strong supporter of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs, among other initiatives.

“We value the efforts of our Congressional Fire Services Caucus members who work every day to support the fire and emergency services and Senator Klobuchar has led by example, pushing for several legislative priorities that help states and localities to save lives and protect their citizens,” said CFSI President Jim Estepp. “Senator Klobuchar has long been a strong supporter of the fire and emergency services and we look forward to continuing to work with her on major issues that affect our fire and EMS personnel, as well as the safety of communities across the country.”

Since 1992, CFSI has given its Legislator of the Year award to a member or members of Congress who demonstrate outstanding support for the fire and emergency services. Past recipients have been instrumental in moving forward on a number of initiatives affecting fire and EMS personnel and the safety of communities across the nation. We are pleased to add Senator Klobuchar to this distinguished list. 

Senate Passes Vital Bill to Reauthorize AFG, SAFER, and USFA

Following efforts from the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) and the other national fire organizations working in concert, the Senate voted 95 to 2 to pass S.870, the Fire Grants and Safety Act. This bipartisan bill would reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration. CFSI has been working hard to advocate for the passage of this bill through Congress.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Reauthorize AFG, SAFER, and USFA through FY2030;
  • Extend the sunset for AFG and SAFER to September 30, 2032, to ensure local fire departments can continue to receive the vital federal assistance they need to keep their communities safe; and
  • Provide critical funding for USFA by increasing the authorization to $95 million, allowing USFA to respond to the ever-growing needs of the fire and emergency services for training, data, research, and more.

In order to get this bill across the finish line before AFG and SAFER expire next year, members of the fire and emergency services will need to continue to work together to encourage Congress to get it done. CFSI will continue to work to advance this essential legislation.

Senate Now Considering Legislation to Reauthorize AFG, SAFER, and the U.S. Fire Administration

On March 29, 2023, the Senate unanimously agreed to move forward on the path to floor consideration of the Fire Grants and Safety Act (S.870). The Senate expects to consider the bill in the coming days. CFSI and our partner organizations will continue to advocate in support of this vital legislation. We are requesting that the bill move forward without amendments to prevent undue delay in this bill becoming law. To contact your Senator to express support for the passage of S.870 without amendments, click here and search for your state.

S.870 would reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs through fiscal year (FY) 2030. Without reauthorization, the programs will sunset on September 30, 2024. AFG and SAFER are a vital funding source for fire departments of all types—career, combination, and volunteer.

The Fire Grants and Safety Act would also reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and increase the authorized funding level to $95 million. USFA is the lead federal agency for fire data collection, public safety education, fire research, and fire service training. The increased authorization will give USFA’s budget room to grow in future years as the agency works to support fire and EMS personnel across the country.

Senator Tester to Chair Congressional Fire Services Caucus in the 118th Congress

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) is pleased to announce that Senator Jon Tester of Montana will serve as the chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus for the 118th Congress. Since joining the Senate in 2007, Senator Tester has been a fierce advocate for the fire and emergency services in Montana and across the country. In 2018, Senator Tester was recognized by CFSI as its Legislator of the Year due to his work and dedication. (more…)

117th Congress Ends With Passage of Legislative Items Impacting the Fire and Emergency Services

As the 117th Congress came to a close, CFSI and many of our partner organizations were hard at work advocating for many legislative measures to benefit the fire and emergency services. Working together, we were able to get a number of measures signed into law and make good progress on other advocacy items.

At the end of December, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-328). Due to our efforts, the measure either maintained or increased funding for many fire service programs.

  • $58.3 million for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Each year, CFSI advocates for additional funding for USFA to carry out its mission. The legislation included approximately $5 million in additional funding for the agency to advance its mission in the areas of education, training, research, and data collection.
  • $10.5 million for the Supporting and Improving Rural Emergency Medical Service’s Needs (SIREN) program. The program, which benefits EMS in rural areas, received an increase of approximately $3 million over prior year funding.
  • $5.5 million for the National Firefighter Registry (NFR). Working with our partner organizations, CFSI helped secure an additional $3 million more than the budget request for the NFR as it moves towards open enrollment. Click here to learn more about the NFR and projected timelines for implementing the program.
  • Additional $1 billion for the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). CFSI worked with our partners to advocate for the increased funding for the WTCHP, which provides health benefits to 9/11 first responders and survivors. Without the additional funding, the WTCHP would have cut services and denied new enrollments.
  • $2 million for carbon monoxide alarm installation and educational grants at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. CFSI and our partner organizations worked with congressional members to have these grants created through the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act, which became law in March 2022. We then worked to secure funding for these grants through the appropriations process.
  • $76 million for State Fire Assistance (National Fire Capacity) grants. This is an increase of $1 million over the prior year enacted level.
  • $21 million for Volunteer Fire Assistance (Rural Fire Capacity) grants. This is also $1 million more than the prior year enacted level.
  • $4.5 million for the Joint Fire Science program. This is an increase of $500,000 from prior year funding.
  • $37.832 million for FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue Response system. This is a slight increase from the prior year.
  • $360 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs. Funded at previous-year levels, these two grant programs will ensure that opportunities remain available for local fire departments to purchase critical tools and training and staff their stations in order to continue protecting their communities
  • $65 million for Housing Health Hazard grants. These grants are used for renovations of HUD properties that include the installation of fire sprinklers.
  • Extension of Medicare Ground Ambulance Add-On payments. These payments were extended to December 31, 2024.
  • Excess equipment agreements pertaining to wildfire. The Consolidated Appropriations Act includes language allowing the Secretary of the Interior to enter into grants and cooperative agreements with volunteer fire departments, rural fire departments, rangeland fire protection associations, and similar organizations to provide for certain wildland fire training and equipment.
  • The Public and Federally Assisted Housing Fire Safety Act of 2022 became law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. This bill, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA) in response to the deadly fire in Philadelphia in 2022, will require the installation of qualifying smoke alarms in federally-assisted housing.

Also in December, the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act (P.L.117-263) was signed into law. This bill, which was supported by CFSI, will advance federal firefighter health and safety by creating a rebuttable presumption that federal firefighters who become disabled by heart disease, lung disease, and certain cancers contracted such illnesses on the job.

Another legislative victory for the fire service was the passage of the Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act (P.L.117-246), which will give USFA the authority to investigate major fires. This bill, which became law on December 20, 2022, gives USFA the authority to collect important data and work with federal, state, and local partners to understand the causes of fire and take a broad look at fire and life safety.

Lastly, Congress approved the Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances Act or the PFAS Act (P.L.117-248). This bill authorizes DHS to develop guidance for the fire and emergency services pertaining to the health threat of PFAS and put forward a curriculum in partnership with USFA to assist in reducing PFAS exposure, preventing PFAS environmental contamination, and educating stakeholders on PFAS.

CFSI and our partner organizations spent considerable time and energy in the 117th Congress working on legislation to reauthorize the AFG and SAFER grant programs and USFA. While Congress did not ultimately pass the bill, we will resume our efforts in the 118th Congress.

2022 was a busy year for CFSI on the Hill. As always, we are grateful for the collaboration of our NAC members in our legislative work and together, we will continue to advocate for policies and legislation in the 118th Congress that will benefit the fire and emergency services.