Legislation introduced in Senate to reauthorize AFG, SAFER

The grant programs are currently authorized through the end of the current fiscal year


National Volunteer Fire Council

WASHINGTON — On April 5, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation reauthorizing the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs. The bill, S. 829, extends the authorization for AFG and SAFER through FY 2023 and eliminates a “sunset” provision currently set to take effect in January 2018 that would eliminate the programs.

“I’d like to thank Senators McCain, Carper, Collins, and Tester for introducing legislation to reauthorize the AFG and SAFER grant programs,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “AFG and SAFER are lifelines for thousands of volunteer fire departments across the country that severely lack resources. Passage of this bill is absolutely critical to the nation’s volunteer emergency services and will be the NVFC’s top legislative priority this year.”

AFG and SAFER are competitive grant programs that provide matching funds in the form of direct grants to fire departments and non-fire-based EMS agencies to help them reach a baseline level of preparedness. Through AFG, local departments receive funding to purchase training, equipment, and apparatus as well as pay for health and safety programs. SAFER grants can be used to pay for hiring career firefighters or for recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters.

AFG and SAFER funding is allocated based on grant criteria that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) establishes and updates each year after convening a group of stakeholders from national fire service organizations like the NVFC to provide formal input. FEMA then convenes peer review panels comprised of firefighters from across the country who volunteer their time to rank grant applications. This collaborative process ensures that AFG and SAFER funds are spent effectively.

National needs assessment studies consistently show that agencies serving small communities lack up-to-date equipment and training by wide margins compared with fire departments serving larger, more densely-populated communities. As costs continue to rise, it is a struggle for many departments to afford to replace worn-out gear and keep up with rising training requirements.

Volunteer fire departments also face significant staffing challenges that are closely related to the transformation taking place across rural America. Since 2000, the proportion of firefighters over the age of 50 serving in communities with populations of 2,500 or fewer residents has surged from 18.9 percent to 31 percent.