Lennard G. Kruger Specialist in Science and Technology Policy
In response to concerns over the adequacy of firefighter staffing,
the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act, known as the
SAFER Act, was enacted by the 108th
Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National
Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The SAFER Act authorizes grants
to career, volunteer, and combination local fire departments for the purpose of increasing
the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry-minimum standards
and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and
fire-related hazards. Also authorized are grants to volunteer fire
departments for recruitment and retention of volunteers. SAFER is
administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS).
With the economic turndown adversely affecting budgets of local governments,
concerns arose that modifications to the SAFER statute may be necessary to
enable fire departments to more effectively and affordably participate in
the program. Since FY2009, annual appropriations bills have contained
provisions that waive certain provisions of the SAFER statute. These provisions included
the length of the grant, maintenance of expenditure requirements, local
matching requirements, and grant caps. The waivers served to reduce the
financial obligation on SAFER grant recipients, and allowed SAFER grants
to be used to rehire laid-off firefighters and to fill positions lost
Under the existing SAFER statute, the program was authorized through FY2010.
The 112th Congress enacted the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2012 (P.L.
112-239), which reauthorized SAFER through FY2017; altered the grant
distribution formula among career, volunteer, combination, and
paid-on-call fire departments; raised available funding for higher population areas;
and permanently addressed waiver issues previously addressed in annual
Meanwhile, the Administration’s FY2013 budget proposed $670 million for
firefighter assistance, including $335 million for SAFER and $335 million
for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). Both the House-passed FY2013
appropriations bill (H.R. 5855) and the Senate Appropriations Committee
bill (S. 3216) provided $675 million ($337.5 million for SAFER and $337.5
million for AFG). The Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (P.L.
112-175) funds firefighter assistance programs through the first six
months of FY2013 at an increase of 0.612% of the FY2012 level. Therefore,
under the FY2013 continuing resolution, AFG is funded at $339.5 million
and SAFER is funded at $339.5 million through March 2013.
The 113th Congress will likely consider FY2013 and FY2014 budget
appropriations for SAFER. As is the case with many federal programs,
concerns over the federal budget deficit could impact budget levels. At
the same time, firefighter assistance budgets will likely receive heightened scrutiny
from the fire community, given the local budgetary cutbacks that many fire
departments are now facing. The 113th Congress will also likely examine the impact of new
SAFER hiring grant guidelines mandated by P.L. 112-239, the Fire Grants
Reauthorization Act of 2012. The continuing issue is how effectively
grants are being distributed and used to protect the health and safety of
the public and firefighting personnel against fire and fire-related hazards. .
Date of Report: January 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 14 Order Number: RL33375 Price: $29.95
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