AFG and SAFER Receive Combined $680 million ($340 million for each program)
As expected, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2015 Appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security last week.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and the SAFER programs received $340 million each, the same as in the earlier subcommittee markup. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) also received $44 million. All three numbers represent current, FY 2014, funding levels.
Below is the text of the House Committee Report language.
Firefighter Assistance Grants are provided to local fire departments for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of the public and protecting firefighting personnel, including volunteers and emergency medical service personnel, against fire and fire-related hazards.
The Committee recommends $680,000,000 for Firefighter AssistanceGrants, $680,000,000 above the amount requested and thesame as the amount provided in fiscal year 2014. The budget request did not include a separate appropriation for Firefighter Assistance Grants, but instead proposed $670,000,000 for this activity within State and Local Programs. Within the total, the Committee recommends $340,000,000 for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (AFG), which provides grants for firefighter equipment, training, vehicles, and other resources. The Committee also recommends $340,000,000 for firefighter jobs under the Staffing for Adequate Emergency Response (SAFER) program. FEMA shall continue to administer the Fire Grant programs as directed in prior year Committee reports. The Committee encourages FEMA to ensure that the formulas used for equipment accurately reflect the current cost of equipment.
The Committee continues a statutory provision providing the Secretary with broad authority to waive certain provisions of 15U.S.C. 2229a related to SAFER grants. This annual waiver authority has been available since fiscal year 2009 in response to the fiscal challenges faced by many fire departments in recent years. The reauthorization of the SAFER program by the 112th Congress (Public Law 112-239) provided FEMA with permanent authority to waive certain matching and non-supplantation requirements for grantees based on a determination that a grantee meets economic hardship criteria. The Committee is aware that FEMA has been working with stakeholders to develop these criteria and that the agency hopes to soon be able to implement this new waiver authority. As a result, the Committee expects that fiscal year 2015 should be the last instance in which annual waiver authority will be provided and any waivers in future fiscal years will be limited to the authorization provided in Public Law 112-239.
The GAC will keep you updated on further developments. The bill will now move to the House floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee is now likely to move forward with its legislative process for FY2015 appropriations.