Fire grant money is coming, now what?

Ignore the rumors, expect delays, consider micro grants and get your house in order for the next round of grants as this year's money is released

Four weeks ago you could hear a collective sigh of relief at fire and EMS stations all across the country as FEMA announced the first round of AFG awards. Over the next five or six months, FEMA will roll out more award announcements, usually on Fridays.

You can check who's been awarded AFG funding here.

For the 2014 grant cycle, FEMA received slightly over 10,000 applications for AFG funding. This is down considerably from four or five years ago, but it is still a substantial number and indicates the continuing financial need of the nation's fire and EMS agencies.

There was a nasty rumor circulating that FEMA was going to release turndown letters at the same time it initiated awards. As we are all aware, such was not the case.

I implore you to stop listening to uninformed sources concerning grant matters and your life will be less complicated and stressful. Once again, these individuals have proven to be a source of problems and not knowledge.

FEMA has indicated that it plans to release the first batch of turndowns in early June. This group of rejection letters will be for the applications that did not make it to peer review.

The optimum word here is plans. There are so many moving parts to the award process that this could get bumped by a week or two.

There are times that we tend to forget about the reduced staff that FEMA has in place and that these personnel are not only processing this year's awards but also managing previous awards, monitoring past awards, answering your inquiries and dealing with closeouts.

Big upside for little grants
A bright spot in the AFG process has been micro grants. If you have a project that requires a federal share of less than $25,000, this category of funding deserves a long and hard look.

In 2014, AFG received 1,298 micro grant requests. Nearly half of these, 1,011, went to peer review. That is a much higher percentage making it to peer review than any other category.

For 2014, FEMA also received 1,335 SAFER applications and 986 Fire Prevention & Safety applications. These requests went to peer-review panels during May, and awards are anticipated to start in July.

For 2015, FEMA will have $340 million available for SAFER, $306 million available for AFG and $34 million available for FP&S.

The 2015 AFG will give high priority to three requests: turnout gear and SCBA, basic communication projects (portable radios and in-apparatus repeaters), and cardiac-compression devices.

Start to plan now and don't be caught by surprise. FEMA plans to open the AFG window in late fall.

However, please keep in mind that this agency and its budget have been held hostage by Congress in the past. Every time Congress does this, it causes problems for FEMA's funding calendar.

Make sure all old grant awards are closed out properly. These three items are causing a delay in so many 2014 AFG awards at the present time.

Last, but certainly not least, please check your DUNS and situation. If they are out of date, or they contain stale information, please revise them.  

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