Today, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2217, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2014, sponsored by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Jon Runyan (R-NJ-03). The amendment, which passed by voice vote, would increase the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants and the Assistance to Firefighter Grants (FIRE) by $2.5M each.
"Passage of this amendment affirms the remarkable bipartisan effort to ensure our nation's first responders have the resources to keep themselves and our communities safe," said Pascrell, who was a prime author and mover of both the SAFER and FIRE Acts. "Over the past two years, I have fought to restore nearly $1 billion to these critical programs. Ensuring the safety of our communities against the dangers of fire starts with providing our brave firefighters with the equipment and manpower they need."
“I am pleased that the House of Representatives was able to come together again in a bipartisan manner and pass this amendment to ensure our first responders have adequate funding,” said Congressman Runyan. “These grants play a vital role in helping equip or hire additional staff that our firefighters and emergency responders need to provide the best services possible. In these tough economic times it is important that we prioritize our nation’s spending so that we can ensure adequate funding for critical groups, such as our nation’s firefighters.
The International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the National Fire Protection Association issued a statement in support of the amendment saying in part, “These two highly successful grant programs help ensure that our nation’s 30,000 fire departments have the necessary training, equipment and staffing to respond to over 30 million emergency calls annually.”
The Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey also endorsed the amendment by stating, “These programs help to ensure for all fire departments, avenues that enable them to acquire the necessary resources to perform their primary function; protect the lives and property of the citizens.”
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 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) program makes grants to local fire departments to assist in the hiring of firefighters.
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.
In December, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized - with broad bipartisan support - AFG, SAFER and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The reauthorization included 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.