Congress Passes Fiscal Year 2018 Spending Package, Increases Funding for Fire Service Programs

(March 23, 2018) – Yesterday, Congress approved an omnibus spending bill to fund programs and activities of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018.  The government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions since October 1, 2017, the beginning of the current fiscal year.    

Included in the spending package is funding for several programs of significance to the nation’s fire and emergency services.  The Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs are funded at $700 million, split evenly between the two programs.  This is an increase of $10 million from the previous year’s appropriation. Additionally, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) is funded at $42.9 million, with an additional $1.497 million for infrastructure improvements at the National Fire Academy.  This is a slight increase from the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) funding level.

Several other programs received increased funding under the measure as well.  The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) is funded at $630 million, an increase of $25 million over FY17 funding.  The bill also provides $507 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, an increase of $40 million. The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program is funded at $16 million and the State Fire Assistance program is funded at $80 million, increases of $1 million and $2 million respectively.  The Urban Area Search and Rescue System is funded at $35.18 million — essentially the same level of funding as past years.

The spending bill will now be sent to the President.  

Our Federal Leaders Need to Hear from You

This past year, Congress approved legislation to reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs, and the United States Fire Administration. In addition, Congress approved the tax bill that included major provisions of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. It took us 15 years but we were finally able to convince Congress to take action on this measure.

White House Releases Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, Details Requests for Fire Service Programs

(February 15, 2018) – On Monday, the White House released President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal. The $4.4 trillion spending plan includes $46 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security. While Congress has yet to complete work on the Fiscal Year 2018 spending package, committees in the House and Senate will begin reviewing the Administration’s spending requests for the next fiscal year.

The spending plan requests $688,688,000 for the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs, split evenly between the two programs. This is the same amount the Administration requested in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, and a slight reduction from the $690 million Congress appropriated for the programs in Fiscal Year 2017. The budget proposal also requests $43,493,000 for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), with an additional $1,500,000 targeted for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, MD campus. Congress appropriated $44 million for USFA in Fiscal Year 2017.

The President’s plan proposes the same amount for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as the FY18 budget request: $349.4 million and $448.8 million.  If enacted, funding for both programs would be reduced by  25% compared to actual Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels.

The White House is proposing to fund the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program at $11.02 million and State Fire Assistance (SFA) at $65.93 million. These programs provide assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In Fiscal Year 2017, the programs were funded at $15 million and $78 million respectively.

The release of the White House budget proposal is the first step in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process. Once Congress completes its work on the Fiscal Year 2018 funding bills, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin drafting Fiscal Year 2019 funding bills for the individual federal agencies. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the process.

 

Congress Approves Six-Week Continuing Resolution, Includes Disaster Reforms and Other First Responder Provisions

(February 9, 2018) – The House and Senate have approved a six-week continuing resolution to avoid a potential government shutdown.  The measure, which includes a two-year agreement on spending-caps, is the fifth continuing resolution Congress has approved as both chambers continue to struggle with finalizing a funding package for Fiscal Year 2018.  

In addition to maintaining funding for the operations of the federal government through March 23rd, the continuing resolution includes several legislative provisions of importance to the nation’s fire and emergency services.  H.R. 1892, the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act, is the underlying legislation the continuing resolution was attached to.  The bill amends the U.S. Flag Code, affirming the ability of state governors, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, to order the lowering of the United States flag to half-staff in the event of the death of a first responder in the line- of- duty.  The Honoring Hometown Heroes Act was originally introduced in the House by Congressman John Larson (CT-1) and in the Senate by Senator Jon Tester (MT).  

In addition to containing provisions to honor fallen public safety officers, the continuing resolution also makes significant reforms to federal disaster response by allowing the federal cost share for certain disaster assistance to be increased from 75 to 85 percent if states take steps to make themselves more resilient against disasters – including the adoption and enforcement of current building codes.  These reforms are a key component of H.R. 4460, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, first introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) on November 28, 2017.  

Additionally, the continuing resolution extends the Medicare Ambulance Add-On payments for five years.  These payments provide an additional 2%, 3% or 22.6% payment for transportation of Medicare patients from urban, rural and super-rural jurisdictions.

Two Veteran Fire Service Leaders to be Recognized at the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner

The Congressional Fire Services Institute’s Board of Directors selected Mr. Steve Austin and Mr. Tony O’Neill as the co-recipients of the 2018 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. The presentation will take place at the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on April 19th at the Washington Hilton, in Washington, DC.

Congressional Fire Services Institute’s 2018 Christmas Ornament Design Contest

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) is seeking designs for the first national fire service Christmas ornament. We are extremely excited about conducting this contest and developing an ornament that will capture the Holiday spirit and traditions of our nation’s fire and emergency services. Unveiling of the winning design will take place during the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner

Congress Reauthorizes Firefighter Grant Programs, U.S. Fire Administration

(December 21, 2017) – On December 21st, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 4661, the United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act. The House approved H.R. 4661 by unanimous voice vote on Monday, December 18th.

The bill reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration through September 30, 2023. It contains many of the key recommendations the fire organizations presented to Congress earlier in the year that were incorporated into S.829, the Senate bill to reauthorize the two grant programs that was sponsored by Senators John McCain (AZ) and Jon Tester (MT). The bill also contains a “sunset” provision that would eliminate the grant programs, but the sunset would not take effect until September 30, 2024 unless Congress renews the programs before the deadline date.

“For more than a year, the national fire services organizations have worked together to preserve the Assistance to Firefighters, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, and the Fire Prevention and Safety grant programs. The collective efforts of so many individuals and fire organizations made this outcome possible. CFSI takes great pride in playing an integral role in this process,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.

H.R. 4661 will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.