WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) announced today the introduction of the Fire Grants and Safety Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and increase federal resources for local fire departments across the nation. The legislation would boost critical federal funds for local fire departments to address staffing shortages, purchase new equipment, and improve training and emergency services. Fire departments in rural areas are experiencing significant losses in staffing and slowing interest in the volunteer fire fighting work that is critical to smaller communities. In 2021, Monroe County was awarded over $5.6 million through the grants to assist in the hiring of firefighters. In 2021-2022, Miami-Dade County was awarded over $2.3 million for operations and safety.
“As a former firefighter and Chief of the City of Miami Fire Rescue Department, I know firsthand how crucial these vital programs and resources are to adequately prepare firefighters to respond to emergencies and protect our communities,” said Congressman Gimenez. “In the past, both Monroe County and Miami-Dade County have benefited immensely from such initiatives. In Congress, it is our responsibility to support firemen as they make every effort to keep communities in South Florida and across the country safe.”
The Fire Grants and Safety Act would reauthorize funding for three key initiatives: the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. Since 2021, Maine fire departments have been awarded over $4 million in SAFER grants to assist in hiring new staff and more than $14 million in AFG grants. Without Congressional intervention, all three programs are set to expire starting in 2023 – endangering future recruitment, training, retention, and outfitting efforts. The bill is companion legislation to a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
“The Mainers who make up our fire departments put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors,” said Congressman Golden. “The federal government has a responsibility to ensure they have what they need to do their job and do it well. Increasing access to these resources – especially at a time of staff shortages throughout Maine – is just common sense. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help advance this funding for departments in the Second District and across the country.”
“Our fire fighters keep us safe, and we must ensure they have the resources necessary to protect our communities,” said Congressman Kildee. “That’s why I’m working with Republicans and Democrats to provide critical federal funding for local fire departments. This bipartisan legislation will support mid-Michigan fire departments and fire fighters so they can be ready when our community needs them.”
“Communities across our country rely on local fire departments to keep residents safe in the event of a life-threatening crisis,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to co-lead bipartisan legislation that will support volunteer fire departments and assist with volunteer recruitment and retention.”
Advocates and members of the national and Maine firefighting community voiced their support for the bill:
“I thank Representatives Golden and Gimenez for introducing the Fire Grants and Safety Act,” said Chief Donna Black, the President, and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “This bill is a companion to Senate legislation, which we hope will pass this year. The Assistance to Firefighters and SAFER grant programs provide peer-reviewed matching grants directly to local fire departments. They help fund critical training, equipment, and staffing to ensure the safety of our fire and EMS personnel and our citizens. The bill also would authorize more funding for the U.S. Fire Administration, empowering it to better serve the needs of local fire chiefs.”
“The IAFF is grateful to Representatives Golden, Kildee, Gimenez, and Fitzpatrick for introducing the Fire Grants and Safety Act, legislation that would reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA),” said International Association of Fire Fighters General President Edward Kelly. “These programs are vital to ensuring fire departments are fully staffed by trained and equipped fire fighters to respond to any emergency that threatens our communities. Studies and our own experiences have proven that proper staffing levels are key to safe and effective emergency responses. “The IAFF also applauds these members of Congress for advancing legislation that would strengthen the USFA’s role in educating the fire service and gathering the data we need to better protect our communities. The IAFF urges Congress to pass this critical legislation at the first opportunity.”
“NFPA is pleased to support the bipartisan efforts to reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration as well as the AFG and SAFER grant programs that are so critical to first responders across our country,” said Jim Pauley, President and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association.
“Many fire departments across the State of Maine and our Nation are struggling to maintain basic response capabilities,” wrote Darrell White, President of the Maine Fire Chiefs Association, in a letter of support. “This program has been extremely beneficial to many communities here in Maine who have received grants for much needed equipment, apparatus, staffing and training that would not have been possible without the AFG funding.”
“These grants are critical to public safety agencies across the country,” said Darren Woods Director of the Aroostook County Emergency Management and Fire Chief of the North Lakes Fire and Rescue. “These programs have done a lot of good in ensuring that public safety officials have the proper equipment to protect citizens at the community level across the United States.”
Originally published at https://gimenez.house.gov/2022/11/congressman-gimenez-golden-introduce-bipartisan-legislation-to-reauthorize-essential-firefighter-programs-and-help-struggling-local-fire-departments