Firefighters and EMS personnel are on the front lines of emergency response, putting their lives on the line every day to protect their communities. However, they can only do so much without adequate funding and resources. That’s why two vital U.S. firefighter funding programs, Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), were established. Unfortunately, both of these programs are set to expire in September 2023, creating significant uncertainty for firefighters across the country.
AFG Program for Firefighters
The AFG program provides grants to fire departments and non-affiliated EMS organizations to help improve their capacity to respond to emergencies. These grants can be used to purchase equipment, train personnel, improve facilities, and other essential needs. Since its inception in 2001, the program has provided more than $8.1 billion in grants to fire departments across the country, helping to keep firefighters and their communities safe.
SAFER Program for Firefighters
The SAFER program, established in 2003, provides grants to fire departments to hire new firefighters, rehire laid-off firefighters, and retain firefighters facing layoffs due to budget cuts. The program aims to help fire departments increase their staffing levels, reducing response times and improving emergency outcomes. The SAFER program has been essential in communities where budget constraints have forced fire departments to reduce their staffing levels, ensuring that these departments can maintain adequate staffing levels and respond to emergencies effectively.
Both programs, which are critical for enabling many fire departments to obtain necessary resources and keep their communities safe, are set to expire in September, casting doubt on their future. The lack of these programs could pose a particular challenge for fire departments in rural areas or those with budget constraints.
Fire Grants and Safety Act
Thankfully, there is hope. Senator Gary Peters from Michigan introduced the Fire Grants and Safety Act, which seeks to extend the grant programs’ appropriations until 2030. This act aims to reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration, the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program through FY2030. Additionally, the bill proposes to extend the sunset for SAFER and AFG from 2024 to 2032.
Sen. Gary Peters’ introduction of the Fire Grants and Safety Act is a critical step in supporting firefighters and ensuring they have the resources they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively. The reauthorization of the U.S. Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER programs will give fire departments the stability they need to plan for the future and continue serving their communities. We applaud Sen. Peters’ efforts and hope that this bill will pass and become law.