House Committee Funds SAFER
May 13, 2005 - The House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill this week for the Department of Homeland Security that includes funding for the SAFER Fire Fighters Act to address staffing shortages in the nation’s fire departments. This marks the first time that SAFER has been included in a bill that emerged from the Appropriations Committee.
SAFER ultimately received funding last year, but that money was added through amendments on the House and Senate floor, and came only over the objections of the Appropriations Committee.
The turnaround is a direct result of the lobbying efforts of the IAFF. The authors of the Homeland Security Appropriation bill felt compelled to include the funding, despite their personal opposition because of the broad, bi-partisan support of so many members of Congress. More than 100 representatives, including many who serve on the Appropriations Committee, wrote to Subcommittee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Marty Sabo (D-MN) to urge that funding be included in the bill.
“The inclusion of funding for SAFER is a tremendous victory for the IAFF,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “But the funding continues to be far below what is needed to address the staffing crisis.” The Appropriations bill included $50 million for SAFER, a cut of $15 million below the already inadequate funding level approved last year. The IAFF will continue to push for an increase in funds as the legislation moves through the process.
An amendment calling for a larger share of the funding may be offered when the bill reaches the House floor the week of May 16, and the IAFF is working with key senators in an effort to secure a more robust line item for the program in the upper chamber.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Act was established by Congress in 2003 to provide grants to fire departments to hire additional fire fighters and recruit and retain volunteer fire fighters. The program is authorized to spend up to $1 billion each year, but Congress decides each year how much money to allocate for the grants. The FY 2005 appropriation allotted $65 million, and those grants will be awarded later this year. Far more funding is needed for the program to address the staffing shortage in fire houses across the nation.