House Approves Amendments to Restore Funding to the FIRE Act and SAFER

Fire fighters and fire chiefs across the country have been urging members of Congress to reject a proposal to slash funding for two crucial federal programs that fund public safety and apparently, members of the House listened.

The House Appropriations Committee initially proposed cutting the FIRE Act and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response [SAFER] grant program by a combined $510 million, an unprecedented cut that would place the public and fire fighters in danger by reducing the resources of the nation’s fire departments.

“We understand the need to save money, but these misguided cuts will cost lives. This budget proposal isn’t a wise investment, it’s a recipe for disaster,” International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Harold Schaitberger said when the cuts were proposed.

Several days after the cuts were proposed, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment offered by Rep. David Price, D-N.C., that would extend the current SAFER Grant waivers through FY 2011. Earlier that week, an amendment offered by Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., to restore the FIRE and SAFER programs to their 2010 level of funding was passed by the House.

“Thanks to the fire and emergency service leaders,” said Jack Parow, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) president and chairman of the board, “who answered the call to action to reach out to their political leaders and urged them to support this important amendment.”

The original budget proposal eliminated the $420 million SAFER program. SAFER grants in fiscal 2009 allowed fire departments throughout the nation to rehire thousands of fire fighters who were laid off when municipalities felt the brunt of the recession and had to cut programs and lay off workers to balance budgets.

SAFER has been a safety net for those communities. It also has been a successful jobs program, allowing communities to preserve public safety by ensuring that fire departments have an adequate number of fire fighters.

“Eliminating SAFER isn’t just bad for the fire fighters who will lose their jobs if the program is eliminated, it’s bad for the towns and cities that rely on the grants for the fire fighters they wouldn’t have otherwise because the recession forced them to cut back. SAFER grants create jobs and boost public safety,” Schaitberger said.

The House Appropriations Committee also proposed cutting $90 million from the FIRE Act, reducing that program from $390 million to $300 million. FIRE Act grants allow communities to purchase life-saving safety equipment – from personal protective gear to breathing apparatus – for fire fighters.

“Even in the worst of times the safety and security of Americans and the fire fighters sworn to protect them must be among our highest priorities,” Schaitberger said. “Not only is it vital for government to fund a strong military to defend our interests across the globe, we must also invest in the fire fighters and paramedics who are on the frontlines here at home.”

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