Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program Reauthorized for Five More Years
On October 9th, Congress passed H.R. 4200, the Fiscal Year 2005 Department of Defense Authorization Act. Included in the bill was legislation to reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (FIRE Act) through 2009.
Highlights of the reauthorization include:
- Authorizes appropriations of $900 million, $950 million, and $1 billion in FY 2005, 2006, and 2007-2009 respectively.
- Reduces the non-federal match for departments serving jurisdictions of greater than 50,000 people from 30% to 20% and jurisdictions of less than 20,000 people from 10% to 5%.
- Increases the maximum grant size to $1 million for departments that serve a jurisdiction with 500,000 people or less; 1,750,000 for departments that serve a jurisdiction with 500,000 to 1,000,000 people; and $2,750,000 for departments that serve a jurisdiction with more than 1,000,000.
- Increases the grant cap from $750,000 to $1 million for fire prevention grants. Specifies the fire prevention grants to community organizations shall not have a matching requirement.
- Specifies that non-affiliated EMS organizations may compete for up to 2% of the funds appropriated each fiscal year. The bill defines the term non-affiliated EMS organization to mean a public or private non-profit EMS organization that is not affiliated with a hospital and does not serve a geographic area in which the Director finds that EMS is adequately provided by a fire department.
- Codifies current program practices regarding annual criteria development and peer-review process. These practices have been crucial to the programs tremendous success.
- Includes language to move the program back to USFA. However, Congressional appropriators and DHS leadership have continued to insist that the Office for State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (formerly ODP) administer the program.
"The NVFC applauds the reauthoization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program for another five years," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. "Although an important provision protecting the right to volunteer is not in the final version, Congress has still drafted a good piece of legislation and we appreciate the Fire Caucus leadership's efforts to strengthen and protect the volunteer fire service and the program."
The bipartisan group of Members that played a critical role in the bills passage include: Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Representatives Curt Weldon (R-PA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Nick Smith (R-MI) and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).
House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership, including Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representatives Duncan Hunt
er (R-CA) and Ike Skelton (D-MO), were once again very supportive the fire services efforts to pass a major piece of legislation as part of the annual Defense Authorization bill.
The President is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.