Peters and Portman Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Federal Support for Local Fire Departments Advances in Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to increase federal support for local fire departments across the nation has advanced in the Senate. The bill would reauthorize critical Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant programs that local fire departments use to address staffing needs, purchase equipment, develop fire training and education programs, and improve emergency medical services. The bill reauthorizes the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) that fire stations rely on for critical resources and information. The bill was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chair and Portman serves as Ranking Member. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“By reauthorizing these critical federal programs, we can help fire stations in Michigan and across the country support brave and courageous firefighters as they work to save lives and safeguard our communities,” said Senator Peters. “This legislation will ensure fire departments have the tools and resources they need to protect people from fires and emergencies. I urge my colleagues pass this commonsense, bipartisan bill as soon as possible.”

“Firefighters throughout Ohio and across our nation risk their lives every day to protect and serve all of us,” said Senator Portman. “I’m pleased the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed this bipartisan legislation because it will ensure that our nation’s fire and emergency medical services have access to much-needed federal grants and resources to better prepare for and respond to emergency medical services and fire hazards.”

Fire departments use these federal programs to recruit and retain additional personnel, as well as buy up-to-date equipment such as breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles, and more. Fire stations also utilize the programs to fund safety training and technical rescue training, as well as health screenings for firefighters.

The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes SAFER, AFG, and the USFA until 2030. It authorizes $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current levels, and maintains currently authorized levels of funding for the SAFER and AFG programs.

Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“I would like to thank Senator Peters and Senator Portman for introducing this important legislation. The AFG and SAFER grants provide federal matching funds directly to local fire and EMS departments to help them provide lifesaving service in their communities. In addition, the U.S. Fire Administration is an important federal partner for local fire departments for data, training, and fire prevention,” said Chief Donna Black, EFO, CFO, the President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “I look forward to working with them to pass this important legislation this year.”

 “The IAFF applauds Senators Peters and Portman for their leadership in developing a long-term reauthorization of the AFG and SAFER programs, which serve as integral parts of America’s fire service. Reauthorizing these programs and eliminating their statutory sunset sends a strong message that staffing, safety, and the well-being of fire fighters remains the highest priority for Congress,” said International Association of Fire Fighters, General President Edward Kelly. “The IAFF also appreciates Senators Peters and Portman’s work to reauthorize and increase funding for the U.S. Fire Administration. The USFA is a vital partner that supports fire fighters and enables their service to our communities. These funds will ensure USFA can work with America’s fire fighters to confront ever-worsening wildfires, support the continued growth of fire-based EMS, and improve our data analysis abilities. Our IAFF urges Congress to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act as soon as possible. America’s fire fighters and EMS personnel, and our communities deserve nothing less.”

“Volunteer and combination fire and EMS departments struggle to get the funding they need to keep the lights on, fuel the ambulance, and purchase turnout gear,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Chair Steve Hirsch. “Local fundraisers such as chicken dinners can only raise so much. The AFG and SAFER programs are critical to these departments because they allow them to purchase needed equipment and provide recruitment incentives to volunteers to serve their community. I appreciate Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman for their leadership in moving the reauthorization. However, our work is not over. We still need to move this through the House, and get this legislation to President Biden’s desk by the end of the year.”    

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) thanks Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman for their support of America's fire and emergency services. "Reauthorizing the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) will help to ensure that fire departments across the country have the necessary support to keep their communities safe," said President of the CFSI Board of Directors, Bill Jenaway. "Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman understand how important AFG, SAFER, and USFA are to the work of our country's fire and EMS personnel, and CFSI looks forward to working with them and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus to move forward on this vital legislation."

“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, I would like to thank Senator Peters and Senator Portman for their commitment to our nation’s fire and emergency services.  This important legislation will help ensure fire departments across the country have access to the critical equipment, staffing, and training they need to keep our communities safe.  Additionally, the bill makes continued investments in Community Risk Reduction, research into firefighter health and safety, and vital data collection efforts.  We thank the Senators for their continued efforts to keep America’s firefighters and their communities safe,” said Chief Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

"Reauthorizing the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), is vital to improving the effectiveness of State Fire Marshals’ Offices, as well as other state and local fire departments and emergency agencies within our states,” said National Association of State Fire Marshalls, President Michael Desrochers. “We appreciate the leadership from Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Portman, and the support from other members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus for the American fire and emergency services."

"The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) strongly supports the reauthorization of the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program,  Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the U.S. Fire Administration. "Investing funds to ensure our firefighters have the resources necessary to protect their communities is essential to ensuring they are able to go home to their families," said Leigh Hubbard, Executive Director of ISFSI. "We appreciate the work Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman have done on this vital legislation."

“NFPA strongly supports this bipartisan bill to continue the important work of the U.S. Fire Administration as well as the AFG and SAFER grant programs that are critical to our first responders.” Jim Pauley, President & CEO, National Fire Protection Association.

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