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Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Funding Wildfire Initiatives and Authorizing the ALERT Grant

Earlier this week the Senate passed the Senate Amendment to H.R.3684, the INVEST in America Act, otherwise known as the “Compromise Infrastructure Package.” This package was developed as a compromise following negotiations between the White House and a group of moderate Senators and passed by a vote of 69 to 30. The package provides $550 billion in new spending over 5 years in addition to approximately $450 billion in previously approved funding, totaling over $1 trillion. It contains a number of provisions that are helpful to the Fire Service including the authorization of the ALERT grant, funding for wildfire response and mitigation, cybersecurity and infrastructure resilience.

The IAFC is very pleased that this package includes the authorization of the Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) Grants. These grants are used to develop a hazmat response training curriculum for emergency responders, including response activities for the transportation of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids by rail. The IAFC and other fire service non-profit organizations have used ALERT Grants to train tens of thousands of first responders in hazmat response.

Wildfire provisions within this package include:

  • Nearly $3.4 billion for wildfire risk reduction by providing funding for Department of the Interior and the Forest Service initiatives like mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and firefighting resources.
  • $100 million per year over 5 years for Forest Service Community Defense Grants
  • $40 million per year for 5 years (total $200 million) for the Forest Service to carry out State and Private Forestry grants, including:
    • $17.6 million per year for 5 years (totaling $88 million) for State Fire Assistance Grants
    • $4 million per year for 5 years (totaling $20 million) for Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants
  • The text of the Wildland Fire Mitigation & Management Commission Act of 2021 which establishes a commission to study and recommend wildland fire prevention, mitigation, suppression, management, and rehabilitation policies. The original standalone bill was sponsored by Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
  • An increase in the salary of federal wildland firefighters

Cybersecurity provisions within this package include:

  • $1 billion for the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) Grant Program over 4 years ($200 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, $400 million for FY 2023, $300 million for FY 2024, and $100 million for FY 2025). The program will be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in consultation with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) acting as the subject matter expert.
  • $31.5 million per year over 5 years (totaling $157.5 million) for DHS Science and Technology Directorate for Research and Development.
  • $21 million to the Office of the National Cyber Director. The first National Cyber Director was sworn into office July 2021.
  • $75 million year for five years (total $375 million) to fund the National Cyber Resilience Assistance Fund. This is a new authorization would establish a grant program to address areas of significant cybersecurity risk for critical infrastructure in the private sector.

Infrastructure resiliency provisions within this package include:

  • A Department of Energy (DOE) grant program to support activities that reduce the likelihood and consequence of impacts to the electric grid due to extreme weather, wildfire, and natural disaster. Authorizes a total of $5,000,000,000 for this grant from FY 2022 to FY 2026.
  • $1 billion for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program to support states, local communities, tribes and territories in undertaking hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters.

The IAFC will continue to track this infrastructure package’s movement and ensure that the fire service’s priorities remain within it when the House considers this package.

 

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