Current Legislation

117th Congress: Policy Issues and Legislation

Contacting Members of Congress

Developing a relationship with your elected representatives is critical to ensuring that they are aware of issues the fire and emergency services are facing. 

Click here to learn how to find and contact your member of Congress.

Appropriations

CFSI supports funding for programs and agencies that are vital to the fire and emergency services.

Background:

  • The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs are imperative to addressing the needs of more than one million fire and emergency services personnel, while providing an economic stimulus to American businesses. 
  • Every community relies on firefighters to respond to a variety of emergency situations, including structure fires, emergency medical services, hazardous materials response, technical rescues, and wildland/urban interface fires.  
  • Both the AFG and SAFER grant programs improve the response capabilities in each of these emergency response areas and provide funding for crucial fire prevention and safety programs targeted toward high-risk populations.
  • These two highly successful programs help ensure that our nation’s fire departments have the necessary training, equipment, and staffing to respond to tens of millions of emergency calls annually.
  • In addition, the need is great. The grant programs must turn down hundreds of millions of dollars in requests every year due to lack of funding.

How has COVID-19 impacted fire department funding?

  • Due to the pandemic and the economic downturn, fire department funding is down.
  • Conversely, the pandemic has increased the need for fire and emergency services.
  • The pandemic has negatively affected recruitment and training of new firefighters, as well as retention of existing firefighters.
  • This compounds recruitment and retention challenges that the fire and emergency services were already facing pre-pandemic.
  • The AFG and SAFER grant programs provide funding directly to departments in need, minimizing burdensome administrative processes.

Background:

  • USFA is the lead federal agency for the fire and emergency services, providing support and leadership in the areas of training, education, research, and data collection.
  • Each year, USFA provides training to approximately 100,000 fire and emergency service personnel through the National Fire Academy (NFA).  
  • USFA also collects important data and conducts research to reduce the threat of fire and other dangers in local communities.  
  • Over the past decade, USFA’s budget has remained relatively stagnant and well below the authorized level of approximately $76.5 million per year through FY2023.

Background:

  • Established in 1989, the US&R system is a framework to help organize federal, state, and local emergency response teams.
  • The system has 28 task forces that can be sent by FEMA ahead of a disaster, or deployed after disaster strikes.
  • As the nation’s only self-sufficient, all-hazards, ready-response force, the system is essential to our nation’s homeland security.
  • Unfortunately, recent appropriations have only covered a portion of the necessary costs, leaving local governments responsible for filling the gap and, thus, impairing local public safety.

Background:

  • The National Firefighter Registry is an important resource to better understand the link between firefighting and cancer, potentially leading to better prevention and safety protocols.
  • Studies have indicated a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of cancer.  
  • Studies have been limited by lack of availability of important data and relatively small sample sizes that have an underrepresentation of women, minorities, and volunteer firefighters.
  • During the 115th Congress, both the House and Senate unanimously approved the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (P.L. 115-194).  

Background:

  • America’s forests and forest-dependent communities are at risk from outbreaks of pests and pathogens, persistent drought, and the buildup of hazardous fuels. 
  • Urbanization and development patterns are placing more homes and communities near fire-prone landscapes, leading to more destructive and costly wildland fires.
  • The State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) programs help decrease total federal costs for emergency wildland fire suppression by bolstering local readiness and improving local response in the event of a fire.
  • The programs also reduce the threat of fire to people, communities, and both public and private lands.

Legislation

Status: On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed H.R.1319 into law.

Summary: The bill provides additional funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding for individuals, businesses, states and localities, and much more.

Of importance to the fire and emergency services, the bill includes:

  • Funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FEMA grant programs:
    • $100 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.
    • $200 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
    • $50 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Money for state and local recovery funds:
    • $219.8 billion for the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
    • $130.2 billion for the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
  • Funding to address mental health issues among first responders
    • $80 million to address mental health issues—including suicide and burnout—in public safety officers and health care professionals. This funding will be disbursed through the Health Resources and Services Administration.
    • $20 million for an education and awareness campaign encouraging healthy work conditions and the use of mental health services by first responders. This funding will be disbursed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Funding for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, etc., including:
    • $7.5 billion for vaccine administration and distribution at the CDC.
    • $1 billion for vaccine confidence activities at the CDC.
    • $6.05 billion for research and development, manufacturing, production, and other activities pertaining to vaccines, therapeutics, and other medical products.
    • $500 million for vaccine, testing, and other review and oversight activities at the Food and Drug Administration.
    • $47.8 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and monitoring through the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • A provision providing waiver authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that would allow fire departments and EMS agencies to be reimbursed for treatment in place per certain EMS protocols.

COVID-19

CFSI strongly advocates for the support, supplies, and equipment that fire departments and EMS agencies need to respond safely and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Background: Fire and EMS personnel come into direct contact with COVID-19-infected individuals in the course of their daily job requirements. This can be in the context of calls where COVID is known, as well as unrelated calls. 

Ask: Fire and EMS personnel must be considered in the highest-priority tier for vaccination.

Background: Fire and EMS personnel come into direct contact with COVID-19-infected individuals in the course of their daily job requirements. This can be in the context of calls where COVID is known, as well as unrelated calls.

Ask: Fire departments and EMS agencies must have access to much-needed PPE. 

Background: Limited access to testing can result in some fire service personnel working without knowing they have COVID-19, while delays in test results can lead to longer-than-necessary quarantines for personnel who do not have the virus.

Ask: Fire departments and EMS agencies must have prioritized access to testing for COVID-19—especially rapid testing.

Background

  • Due to the pandemic and the economic downturn, fire department funding is down.
  • Conversely, the pandemic has increased the need for fire and emergency services.
  • The pandemic has negatively affected recruitment and training of new firefighters, as well as retention of existing firefighters.
  • This compounds recruitment and retention issues that the fire and emergency services were already facing pre-pandemic.
  • The AFG and SAFER grant programs provide funding directly to departments in need, without burdensome intermediaries.

Legislation

Status: On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed H.R.1319 into law.

Summary: The bill provides additional funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding for individuals, businesses, states and localities, and much more.

Of importance to the fire and emergency services, the bill includes:

  • Funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FEMA grant programs:
    • $100 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.
    • $200 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
    • $50 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Money for state and local recovery funds:
    • $219.8 billion for the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
    • $130.2 billion for the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
  • Funding to address mental health issues among first responders
    • $80 million to address mental health issues—including suicide and burnout—in public safety officers and health care professionals. This funding will be disbursed through the Health Resources and Services Administration.
    • $20 million for an education and awareness campaign encouraging healthy work conditions and the use of mental health services by first responders. This funding will be disbursed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Funding for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, etc., including:
    • $7.5 billion for vaccine administration and distribution at the CDC.
    • $1 billion for vaccine confidence activities at the CDC.
    • $6.05 billion for research and development, manufacturing, production, and other activities pertaining to vaccines, therapeutics, and other medical products.
    • $500 million for vaccine, testing, and other review and oversight activities at the Food and Drug Administration.
    • $47.8 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and monitoring through the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • A provision providing waiver authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that would allow fire departments and EMS agencies to be reimbursed for treatment in place per certain EMS protocols.

Fire and Life Safety

CFSI supports initiatives to improve the safety of civilians and firefighters alike, including supporting widespread use of devices that can prevent, detect, and/or suppress harmful threats such as fire and carbon monoxide. 

Legislation

Summary: The legislation establishes a federal grant program to assist states in carrying out carbon monoxide detector installation and education programs.

Background:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced whenever fossil fuels are burned.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 400 deaths and tens of thousands of emergency room visits caused by CO poisoning every year.
  • CO poisoning can also cause harmful, long-term health conditions, including lifelong neurological and cardiac issues.
  • While anyone can be harmed by exposure to CO, it is especially dangerous for babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with preexisting chronic health conditions.

Status:

  • S. 351 was introduced by Senators Klobuchar and Hoeven on February 22, 2021.
  • H.R. 1460 was introduced by Representatives Kuster and Carter on March 1, 2021. It passed the House of Representatives on April 15, 2021.

Summary: The legislation creates a grant program for public housing agencies to install automatic sprinkler systems in certain public housing projects.

Background:

  • In buildings with sprinkler systems the death rate per fire can be substantially reduced and the property damage decreased.
  • The widespread adoption of fire sprinklers in the last 40 years is one of the elements that has led to a reduction in fire deaths in the U.S..
  • The risk of death to firefighters is nearly eliminated in a fully sprinklered structure and the injury rate is lowered.

Status:

  • S. 265 was introduced by Senators Smith and Klobuchar on February 4, 2021.
  • H.R.2638 was introduced by Representatives Watson Coleman and Rutherford on April 16, 2021.

Health

CFSI supports initiatives to promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of fire and emergency services personnel. 

Legislation

Summary: The legislation provides funding for peer counseling programs for public safety officers, and collects data on post-traumatic stress among public safety officers to assist in developing best practices and improve measures to recognize, prevent, and treat mental health issues among public safety officers.

Background:

  • On the job, fire and EMS personnel are frequently exposed to scenes including traumatic injury and loss of life.
  • The psychological impacts of such exposure can have severe negative effects on fire and EMS personnel.
  • There is a great need for more robust mental health awareness, treatment, and support in the fire and emergency services.

Status:

  • H.R.1480 was introduced by Representatives Bera and Fitzpatrick on March 2, 2021. It passed the House on May 12, 2021.

Summary: The legislation extends certain reimbursements received by ground ambulance services for transporting patients.  

Background:

  • When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides payments for transporting patients, one portion is based on the zip code where the transport started.
  • These payments, called “Ground Ambulance Extenders,” have existed for nearly 20 years and provide an additional 2%, 3%, or 22.6% payment depending on whether the transport originated in an area designated as urban, rural, or super-rural.
  • These payments are vital to ensuring that departments can recoup costs for services.
  • The extenders have been reauthorized by Congress several times on a bipartisan basis and are currently set to expire on January 1, 2023.
  • H.R. 2454 would extend the deadline for five years, to 2028.

Status:

  • H.R.2454 was introduced by Representatives Sewell and Nunes on April 12, 2021.
  • S.2037 was introduced by Senators Cortez-Masto and Collins on June 10, 2021.

Tax and Retirement

CFSI supports tax and retirement proposals that are of assistance to the fire and emergency services.

FAQs

Click here to learn how to find and contact your member of Congress.

See the video and flowchart below for a high-level overview of the process.

Click here to read an in-depth description of the process.

Process Overview

CRS: The Legislative Process

Click here to see the status of the 12 appropriations bills for the current fiscal year. 

In general, an authorization creates an agency, program, or activity, which may then be funded with appropriations. 

Click here to learn more about these two processes.

Budget reconciliation is a legislative tool by which the Senate can pass specific legislation with a simple majority. Typically, the Senate requires 60 votes to move bills.

Click here to see an FAQ from the House Budget Committee.

Click here to read a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Scorekeeping helps to determine the “costs”—namely changes in federal spending, revenues, and deficits—of proposed an enacted legislation.

Click here to read a report from the Congressional Budget Office.