WASHINGTON— A bipartisan group of members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday introduced legislation to reauthorize three grant programs critical to the hiring, training, and equipping of firefighters and emergency medical personnel across the country.
Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Federal Financial Management Subcommittee (FFM) Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and FFM Ranking Member Scott Brown, R-Mass., introduced the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011 to continue funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) and Fire Prevention and Safety Grant (FP&S) programs. Lieberman, Collins and Carper are Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
Similar legislation was approved by the Committee last year.
“Over the past ten years, firefighters across the nation have assumed a larger role in emergency preparedness,” said Lieberman. “More than ever, first responders need the training and equipment to deal with not just fires, but hazardous materials, nuclear, explosive and radioactive threats and other potential dangers. This legislation takes much-needed steps to ensure that our courageous first responders have what they need to protect their communities and themselves as they perform a very dangerous job.”
Collins said: “The fire grant is one of the most successful programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security. It is an efficient and effective model for delivering grant funding because it is peer-reviewed and monies are provided directly to local fire departments. Our bill retains and builds upon the most important provisions that enabled the Fire Act grant program to be successful – a competitive process for evaluating applications, awards made directly to local communities, and a proven peer review process that functions well. Because of this bill, fire departments will continue to receive the support they need to purchase equipment and vehicles and conduct the training and exercises necessary to perform their jobs well.”
Carper said: “Every day, the men and women of our fire and emergency service organizations put their lives on the line to protect our communities and our property in Delaware and across the country, and it is essential that we give them the equipment, training and resources necessary to do their jobs in a safe and effective manner. As co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our first responders get the tools they need. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011, which is critically important to fire fighters and emergency service organizations throughout the country, and especially to our fellow fire men and women in Delaware. Many emergency services organizations have had to make drastic cuts in equipment and personnel due to the challenging economy and severely strained state and local budgets. This program allows our first responders to obtain essential grants that allow them to perform at their very best during times of crisis.”
Brown said: “Firefighters in Massachusetts and throughout the country put themselves in harm’s way to keep our citizens safe, and we must ensure they have the necessary training, equipment and resources. This bipartisan legislation will help support their efforts, and I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting it.”
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (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. Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FPS&S) grants support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and fire-related hazards. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) Program provides grants to career, volunteer, and combination 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 legislation reauthorizes the FIRE and SAFER grant programs for five years. The bill includes a number of accountability measures, including performance assessments and a competitive award process. The bill additionally requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress the effect changes to the grant programs have had on mitigating fire, fire-related and other hazards.