Carper, Dodd, Collins, Lieberman And McCain Introduce Fire Grants Reauthorization Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) , Chris Dodd (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) this week introduced the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2010, a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER), and the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant (FP&S) programs. 


Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the bill.  It now awaits consideration and approval by the full Senate.


"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 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 2010, which is critically important to fire fighters and emergency service organization throughout the country, and especially to our fellow fire men and women in Delaware. This program allows our first responders to obtain essential grants that allow them to perform at their very best during times of crisis," said Senator Tom Carper. 


"These successful grant programs have provided invaluable benefits to fire fighters and first responders across the country, supporting the purchase of life-saving equipment, critical training, and adequate personnel in communities big and small," said Senator Chris Dodd. "Our nation’s fire fighters willingly put their lives on the line every day to keep the people of their towns and cities safe from harm, and in return, we owe it to them to provide them with the tools, training, and staff they need to do their job safely and efficiently–and this bipartisan bill is a good first step in continuing to ensure that commitment." 


"The fire grant is one of the most successful programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security," said Senator Susan Collins. "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." 

 "Since September 11 and the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, firefighters in communities large and small have assumed a greater role in emergency preparedness. More than ever, towns and cities need the ability to hire additional firefighters, purchase new equipment, and initiate education and training programs, all of which is critical to ensuring they can safely perform their dangerous jobs. The grant programs renewed by this legislation will help firefighters protect communities across the country from disasters large and small. We must continue to do all we can to support our courageous first responders, who protect the rest of us from all types of disasters each and every day," said Senator Joe Lieberman.


"The first FIRE Act was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously in 2000 when I was chair of the Committee and since then I have always been proud to sponsor legislation to reauthorize the fire grant program," said Senator John McCain.  "This program recognizes that fire fighters no longer serve only to protect communities from fires, but also serve to protect our homeland and the Federal government must support their ability to do so.  Additionally, American taxpayers can be proud of this fiscally responsible legislation, which bans this program from being earmarked by legislators and requires all grant applications to be peer-reviewed and competitively bid."


The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as the FIRE Act grant program, provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter and emergency response needs. Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FP&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 authorizes $950 million annually for the FIRE and the SAFER grant programs for five years and includes adjustments for inflation each year. It recognizes the impact the current economic crisis is having on communities and fire department budgets and provides flexibility to FEMA to waive certain requirements for applicants that demonstrate an economic hardship, including factors such as unemployment. The legislation also enhances the application peer-review process and recognizes the cost-savings and effectiveness of regional collaboration by encouraging joint applications. 


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 these changes to the grant programs have had on mitigating fire, fire-related, and other hazards.