Hill Updates

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.

Congress Declares September 2020 Campus Fire Safety Month

Yesterday, a Senate resolution, S.Res.723, passed the Senate unanimously, declaring September 2020 as Campus Fire Safety Month. The resolution was introduced by Senators Susan Collins and Tom Carper, co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

In a press release, Senator Collins noted, “As college and university students resume classes this fall, it is important that we continue to place an emphasis on fire safety, both in dormitories and in off-campus housing.  Our bipartisan resolution promotes fire safety education and fire prevention efforts in campus communities to help protect students and save lives.”

“By designating September as Campus Fire Safety Month, Americans are reminded of the importance of fire safety, awareness and prevention.  Students and faculty can each do their part to increase attention to fire hazards and create safer campuses across the country to help save lives,” said Senator Carper.

The resolution encourages the provision of fire safety education to college students, evaluations of existing campus fire safety, installation of fire detection and suppression systems, and development of applicable codes.

President Signs Stimulus Bill Into Law

This afternoon, the President signed into lawH.R.748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The House passed the bill earlier today by voice vote and the Senate passed the bill earlier in the week by a vote of 96-0.
The bill provides approximately $2 trillion to stimulate the U.S. economy in the wake of the COVID-19-related economic downturn. H.R.748 includes a variety of incentives for both businesses and individuals, such as increased unemployment benefits, individual stimulus checks of up to $1,200, and loans for businesses.
Provisions of interest to the fire and emergency services include:
  • $100 million to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program “for the purchase of personal protective equipment and related supplies, including reimbursements.”
  • An additional $7 million for Wildland Fire Management “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including for personal protective equipment and baseline health testing for first responders.”
  • $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.
  • A technical correction for Qualified Improvement Property (QIP). An error in the 2017 tax reform bill meant that this class of property, which generally includes interior improvements to buildings, did not receive 15-year depreciation or access to full expensing. The technical correction included in H.R.748 will provide 15-year depreciation and access to full expensing for QIP, helping to incentivize fire sprinklers. CFSI has been working to secure this change since 2018.
  • $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • $1 billion for the Defense Production Act “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” This may include addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and medical supplies such as ventilators.
  • $16 billion for the National Strategic Stockpile to purchase personal protective equipment and other medical equipment.
  • Language to help the Food and Drug Administration address drug shortages, including prioritizing review of certain drugs.
CFSI continues to advocate for the fire and emergency services to ensure they have the supplies and funding they need.

President’s Budget Released

The budget and appropriations cycle for fiscal year (FY) 2021 kicked off in earnest yesterday when President Trump released his recommendations for government spending. Known as the President’s Budget Request (PBR), the documents contain the President’s suggested funding levels for various agencies and programs.

Recommendations for a few items of interest to the fire service are as follows:

  • AFG/SAFER: The PBR recommended $344.3 million for both AFG and SAFER, a decrease from the FY2020 level of $355 million. 
  • Urban Search and Rescue: The PBR recommended 37.832 million, the same as the FY2020 level.
  • U.S. Fire Administration: The PBR recommended $49.7 million, an increase from the FY2020 level of $46.8 million.

What Does the President’s Budget Mean?

While the PBR contains the Executive Branch’s recommendations for funding levels, Congress does not often follow these suggestions. The House and Senate may take into account a few specific recommendations for certain programs or agencies, but Congress typically follows its own priorities when writing the current year’s appropriations bills. 

What’s Next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold hearings where agency and program representatives testify on the performance of various initiatives. Members of Congress can also use these hearings to question agency officials on programs of interest to their states and districts. Information gleaned from these hearings may be taken into account when the committees consider the funding levels for various programs and agencies in the actual appropriations bills. These hearings have already started in the House.

Ultimately, Congress needs to approve 12 appropriation measures before the current fiscal year comes to a close in September. Throughout the appropriations process, CFSI will provide updates on FY2021 funding for programs that benefit our nation’s fire service.

Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Update

On September 26​th​, the Senate voted 82-15 in favor of a House-passed continuing resolution (HR 4378)
that will fund the government through November 21​st​. The measure has been sent to President Trump,
who is expected to sign it.
To date, the House and Senate have not reached agreement on any of the 12 appropriation bills. With
Congress scheduled to go into recess for the next two weeks, they will have only five weeks remaining
upon their return to complete work on Fiscal Year 2020 funding before the November 21​st​ deadline.
The Department of Homeland Security appropriations legislation is of particular interest to the fire
service, as it contains funding for the United States Fire Administration, AFG and SAFER grant programs, and other programs that impact the fire service. Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an FY2020 DHS spending measure that would fund AFG and SAFER at $710 million split evenly, and the United States Fire Administration at $46.84 million. The House Appropriations Committee approved its own measure last June that would fund the two grant programs at $750 million split evenly, while appropriating $47,225 million for the United States Fire Administration.