U.S. Congress Passes Massive Spending Bill to Fund Fire & EMS Programs

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133). The 5,593-page bill will fund the entire federal government until September 30, 2021. In addition, it includes legislation to provide COVID-19 relief. While the COVID-19 relief legislation does not include aid to state and local governments, there are provisions in this bill that will help the fire and emergency service.

Here are some of the provisions of note:

  • An increase that will fund the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program at $360 million.
  •  An increase that will fund the SAFER program at $360 million.
  • An increase of the U.S. Fire Administration to $49.27 million.
  • An increase to the Volunteer Fire Assistance program to $19 million to fight wildland fires.
  • An increase in funding for the SIREN grant program to $5.5 million for rural EMS response.
  • An increase to the Urban Areas Security Initiative grant program to $705 million.
  • An increase to the State Homeland Security Grant Program to $610 million.
  • A repeal of a mandate to auction public safety spectrum in the T-Band (470 MHz-512 MHz).
  • Permanent reauthorization of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act to protect some state and local incentives for volunteer fire and EMS personnel from federal taxation.
  • Appropriation of an additional $3 billion in the HHS’ Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for the purposes of reimbursing Medicare-enrolled suppliers and providers for the expenses of their COVID-19 response, including PPE and workforce surge costs.
  • Appropriation of $2.5 million for the national firefighter cancer registry.
  • Appropriation of $37.8 million for the Urban Search & Rescue system.
  • Reauthorization of the ALERT grant program at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration to train rural public safety agencies to respond to hazmat incidents by rail.
  • Authorization for the FEMA Administrator to waive the following requirements to the FY 2021 SAFER grants:
The three-year performance period. 

The local cost-share. The requirement that SAFER funds not supplant local funds. 

The requirement that the recipient fire department maintain its budget at 80% of the average funding over the past three years. 

The ability for fire departments to retain and re-hire firefighters.
  • Authorization for the FEMA Administrator to waive the local match requirement for the AFG grants and the maintenance of expenditures requirements (preventing budgets from being reduced to not less than 80% of the average amount of such expenditures in the preceding two fiscal years).

President Trump is expected to sign this legislation.

Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations and Policy.

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