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IAFC details how COVID-19-driven stimulus bill impacts fire service

The stimulus bill identifies the funding streams used to reimburse fire and EMS departments for operational costs during national emergency

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The Senate passed a stimulus package that includes more than $163 billion designated to assist local fire and EMS departments.

By Janelle Foskett

WASHINGTON, DC — The $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday includes more than $163 billion designated to assist local fire and EMS departments, according to a statement from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

The stimulus package was drafted in an attempt to boost the flailing U.S. economy, undercut by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 86,000 people and killed 1,300 across the country as of Friday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

The IAFC outlined the multiple funding streams used to reimburse fire and EMS departments for the costs of their operations:

  • $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to reimburse eligible healthcare providers for healthcare expenses or lost revenue directly attributable to the coronavirus. Funding could go to public entities; providers enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and other for-profit and nonprofit entities that provide diagnoses, testing or care for individuals with COVID-19. The IAFC will follow up with the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to ensure that fire departments can apply for these funds.)
  • $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to reimburse activities such as medical response, procurement of PPE National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, implementation of safety measures, and provision of community services. According to FEMA, these funds will cover overtime and backfill costs; the costs of supplies, such as disinfectants, medical supplies and PPE; and apparatus usage. (The federal government will cover 75% of these costs.) The IAFC recommends that fire chiefs consult the guidance from U.S. Fire Administrator Chief Keith Bryant and FEMA’s new sheet on FEMA’s Simplified Public Assistance Application. In addition, they should consult with their state emergency managers to begin the process of being reimbursed.
  • $100 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program for PPE, supplies and reimbursements. This funding is specific to COVID-19 PPE, supplies, etc. The IAFC has contacted FEMA to determine when this special application period will take place.
  • $100 million for Emergency Management Performance grants for emergency preparedness – a grant program run by FEMA. The IAFC will provide more information in the future about applying for these grants.
  • $7 million for the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management account to provide PPE and baseline testing for wildland firefighters. This funding will be spent at the discretion of the chief of the USFS, and it is expected to be used for USDA’s wildland firefighting operations.

IAFC President Chief Gary Ludwig tweeted his disappointment about funding allocation for fire and EMS supplies:

The bill also attempts to address the shortage of needed emergency supplies:

  • $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of PPE and drugs.
  • $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to improve the national supply chain and improve the production of PPE, ventilators and other needed equipment, and funding for federal, state and local agencies to purchase this equipment.
  • $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s State and Local Preparedness Grant.
  • Addresses drug shortages by allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prioritize and expedite the review of drug applications and inspections to prevent or mitigate drug shortages. The legislation also requires drug manufacturers to share information on their drug volume and report when there is a supply interruption due to shortages of the active pharmaceutical ingredient.

The bill also addresses life safety priorities, including the allowance of fire sprinkler retrofit installations in commercial buildings to qualify for bonus depreciation through 2027, as well as a 15-year depreciation period in perpetuity after 2027.

The IAFC indicated that it will continue to work to ensure that fire departments get the equipment and supplies needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.