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House Sends Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Funding Wildfire Initiatives and Authorizing the ALERT Grant to the President’s Desk

Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, otherwise known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF). This package was developed as a compromise following negotiations between the White House and a group of moderate Senators and passed last night in the House by a vote of 228 to 206. The BIF provides $1.2 trillion in total spending to improve the nation’s roads, highways, and other infrastructure. It contains a number of provisions that are helpful to the nation’s fire and emergency service including the authorization of the Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) grant program; funding for wildfire response and mitigation; and cybersecurity and infrastructure resilience.

The IAFC was very pleased that this package includes the authorization of the ALERT grant program. These grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, are used to develop a hazmat response training curriculum for emergency responders to respond to incidents involving 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 wildland fire risk reduction by providing funding for U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service initiatives like mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and firefighting resources. 
  • $100 million per year over five years for Forest Service Community Defense Grants.
  • $40 million per year for five years (total $200 million) for the Forest Service to carry out State and Private Forestry grants, including:
    • $17.6 million per year for five years (total $88 million) for State Fire Assistance Grants
    • $4 million per year for five years (total $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 Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
  • A requirement that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture seeks to convert no fewer than 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to wildland firefighters that:
    • are full-time, permanent, year-round federal employees
    • reduce hazardous fuels on federal land not fewer than 800 hours per year
  • An increase for the base salary of a federal wildland firefighters in areas where it is difficult to recruit or retain a federal wildland firefighter. This increase would be lesser of an amount that is commensurate with an increase of $20,000 per year or an amount equal to 50 percent of the base salary. 

Cybersecurity provisions within this package include:

  • $1 billion for the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) Grant Program over four years. The program will be administered by the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) in consultation with the U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency acting as the subject matter expert.
  • $31.5 million per year over five years (total $157.5 million) for U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 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 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 billion for this grant over five years.
  • $1 billion for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program to support states, local communities, tribes, and territories in undertaking hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters.

The BIF passed the Senate on August 10 by a vote of 69 to 30. Having passed both houses of Congress, it now advances to President Biden’s desk for signature. President Biden is expected to sign the BIF into law. The IAFC will continue to track the debate surrounding the other infrastructure package expected to move via reconciliation, H.R.5376, the Build Back Better Act

Ryan Woodward is the IAFC’s Government Relations Manager.

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