It’s March in America’s capital: The temperatures are rising, the Nationals are in spring training and the robins are out. Smart Washington watchers know that this is the start of the appropriations season and, hopefully, you are planning to attend the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner on April 24 and 25.
After a grueling 35-day shutdown, the federal government is funded and back open. However, that funding only lasts until October 1, when fiscal year (FY) 2020 starts. Congress will start considering these appropriation bills this spring.
As the kickoff to the appropriations season, President Trump released his FY 2020 budget request soon with major cuts to nondefense programs. Fortunately, programs like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) fared well.
We urge you to visit Washington and ask your senators and representatives to protect these programs. Here’s what the funding situation looks like:
| FY 2019
| FY 2020
| U.S. Fire Administration
| AFG Program
| SAFER Grant Program
| State Homeland Security Grant Program
| Urban Areas Security Initiative
| Volunteer Fire Assistance/Rural Fire Capacity
It is important that we be active in protecting funding for these programs and even asking for increases. For FY 2020, the IAFC is asking Congress to ignore any proposed cuts to the federal fire service programs and, instead, increase funding for them.
For FY 2020, this is what we are asking for:
- $50 million for USFA and the National Fire Academy to finance infrastructure improvements and curricula updates.
- $405 million each for the AFG and SAFER Grant programs to fund critical equipment upgrades like the replacement of firefighter PPE and to upgrade fire departments across the nation to four-person staffing on apparatus.
- $50 million for the Urban Search and Rescue system, so the teams can replenish material and equipment used during the response to recent major hurricanes, wildland fires and tornadoes.
- $2.5 million for the Firefighter Cancer Registry to get it established and operational.
- $20 million for the SIREN Grants at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to begin training and equipping fire-based and third-service EMS.
- $18 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program to help rural fire departments prepare for the wildland fire season, which continues to grow and become more severe.
With a divided Congress focused on issues concerning the American-Mexican border and the investigations into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and finances, it is important that fire chiefs be vocal with their senator and representatives about the need to fund federal fire service programs.
The annual Congressional Fire and Emergency Services dinner provides a great opportunity to meet with your legislators and their staffs during the day, network with members of the IAFC and other organizations and enjoy a nice dinner celebrating the men and women of America’s fire and emergency service. This year, Congress will be in recess, but you can still see if your senators and representatives will be in Washington and hold quality meetings with their staffs.
You can get updates on federal legislation and access to our Hot Sheet and Issues Discussion documents at IAFC.org/GR. We look forward to seeing you in April!