WASHINGTON - In continuing to assist fire departments across the United States, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) today announced the reauthorization of three critical fire programs by the U.S. House of Representatives. Reauthorizations for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) were included in National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), which passed with a vote of 315-107.
“As our communities continue to face a devastating budget crisis, we see the unfortunate effect these cuts can have on our local first responders," stated Pascrell, who introduced the original FIRE Act in March 1999. "Through this reauthorization, we will ensure that these brave professionals have every advantage available to keep the risk of loss of life and property damage at an absolute minimum. It is imperative that we continue these fire grant programs which have proven to be effective in not only protecting the lives of our first responders, but also the precious lives in our communities."
The reauthorization of these programs make many important improvements to AFG and SAFER, including raising current grant caps, reducing the local match under FIRE, significantly simplifying the local match under SAFER, and providing waivers for communities facing significant economic hardship.
Rep. Pascrell saw the FIRE Act signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Since the FIRE Act and SAFER were initially authorized, in FY2001 and 2005, respectively, they have provided more than $8 billion in grants to local fire departments, to hire approximately 18,500 firefighters. From FY2001-FY2010 New Jersey received nearly $200 million in grants to hire approximately 740 firefighters.
The AFG program makes direct grants to fire departments to purchase equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, and other fire fighting and fire prevention activities. It also funds Fire Prevention and Safety Grants which are used for fire awareness and prevention activities, as well as fire safety related research. The SAFER program makes grants to local fire departments to assist in the hiring of firefighters
In September, the Clifton Fire Department was able to rehire eight firefighters as a result of a $1.3 million SAFER grant.
During the 1990s, shortfalls in state and local budgets, coupled with increased responsibilities of local fire departments, led many in the fire community to call for additional financial support from the federal government. Although federally funded training programs existed through the National Fire Academy, there was no dedicated federal program exclusively for firefighters that provided funding directly to local fire departments to help address a wide variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related needs.
On May 13, 2003, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) released the first independent evaluation of the Assistance to Firefighters Program, which concluded the program was “highly effective in improving the readiness and capabilities of firefighters across the nation.”
Rep. Pascrell joined Congressional Fire Services Caucus Chair Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Co-chairs Peter King (R-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and David Reichert (R-WA) in a letter of support to the House Armed Services Committee.
The can be found here, full text of the letter follows:
December 12, 2012
The Hon. Buck McKeon The Hon. Adam Smith
Chairman Ranking Member
House Armed Services Committee House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building 2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith:
As you conference with the Senate to reach an agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013, we urge you to retain provisions in the Senate passed bill to reauthorize funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).
The AFG program, also known as the FIRE Act grant program, provides federal grants to local fire departments and Emergency Medical Services to help address a variety of equipment, training and other firefighter and emergency response needs. The SAFER program provides grants to fire departments for the purpose of increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.
The Senate language authorizes funding for USFA and the two grant programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2017. In addition, the amendment makes several critical improvements to the AFG and SAFER grant programs, including raising current grant caps, reducing the local match under FIRE, significantly simplifying the local match under SAFER, and providing waivers for communities facing significant economic hardship.
These improvements are long overdue and passed the Senate by unanimous consent. We are confident they enjoy significant bipartisan support from our House colleagues and strongly urge you to support their inclusion in the final legislation.
Signatories of this letter were Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Peter King (R-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and David Reichert (R-WA)