Obama budget calls for cuts to fire grants programs

If adopted, the cuts will impact fire grant programs, the U.S. Fire Administration and Urban Search and Rescue

On March 4, the Obama administration released its proposed budget request for 2015. The $3.9 trillion budget, which is an estimated increase of $250 billion more than the FY2014 levels, allocates $38.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This represents a decrease of approximately $1 billion from FY 2014 appropriations for DHS.

A number of programs vital to the fire service are scheduled to be reduced under the administration’s 2015 fiscal plan. The Assistance to Firefighters and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs would be reduced by $10 million to $670 million for both grant programs. This is the same amount the administration proposed in its 2014 budget. However, Congress appropriated $680 million in FY2014, which was an increase of $5 million over FY2013 proposed spending plan.

The budget also proposed funding for the U.S. Fire Administration at $41.4 million, which is a $3 million reduction from FY 2014. In addition, Emergency Management Preparedness Grants would again be funded at $350 million. However, President Obama proposed a significant cut in the Urban Search and Rescue program — proposing only $27.5 million. The FY 2014 budget was $35.18 million for this program.

The Volunteer Fire Assistance program is one fire service program that would virtually remain intact. VFA provides funding to state forestry agencies to deliver grants to fire departments for the purchase of firefighting equipment and training to respond to wildland fires in rural jurisdictions. The administration proposed $13 million in funding for FY2015 — a slight decrease from the $13.03 million appropriated for FY2014.

Unified grant program
President Obama also proposed that all other state and local grant programs be folded into one major National Preparedness Grant program, which would be competitively awarded. Congress in the past has rejected this idea and kept separate programs such as the UASI and state block grant programs.

Since Congress has already agreed on a total budget number as part of the 2014-2015 budget agreement, this year’s process should move rather quickly as opposed to the budget battles of the past few years. Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees will begin drafting spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year.

We strongly suggest that you contact your elected representatives and explain to them how important this funding is to your organization, their district and our nation’s safety as a whole.

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