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.

CFSI Mourns the Loss of a Friend and Colleague

The CFSI Board of Directors and staff extend their sympathies to the family of Dave Finger, Chief of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for the National Volunteer Fire Council.  On June 3, Dave passed away at the age of 44 following a courageous battle against pancreatic cancer.

Before joining NVFC in 2005, Dave was the lead staff person on fire service issues for the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology. He was the consummate professional back then as he was during his career at NVFC.

We are all saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague.  His contributions to public safety will have a lasting positive impact on the entire fire and emergency services.

Rest in peace, Dave.