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.  

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.

Senate Passes Firefighter Grants Reauthorization

(August 3, 2017) – On August 2nd, the Senate approved S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Reauthorization Act, by unanimous consent.  The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 17th, reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs through Fiscal Year 2023.  Additionally, the legislation removes a “sunset” provision in the current authorizing statute that would eliminate the programs on January 2, 2018.

S. 829 was introduced by Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senator Jon Tester (MT), both co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  Senator Susan Collins (ME), chair of the Fire Caucus, and Senator Tom Carper, a fellow Fire Caucus co-chair, are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

“We are very grateful to the Senate for taking action to reauthorize these critical, life saving programs that have had such an immense impact in communities across the entire nation,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “The passage of S. 829 is the result of a cooperative and unified effort by the national fire service organizations, as well as persistent grassroots engagement by fire service leaders throughout the country.  We strongly urge the House to approve the Senate bill as soon as they return from the August Congressional recess.”  

On July 12th, the House Science, Technology and Space Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology conducted a hearing on reauthorizing the AFG, SAFER and FP&S grant programs.  Unfortunately, the House adjourned for a five-week district work period before the subcommittee could take action on any legislation.  The House is scheduled to return on September 5th.