An amendment by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Township) to restore funding for firefighter grants now moves to the Senate after it was overwhelmingly approved in the House.
The Congressman offered an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill to restore some of the grant funds that had been slashed for the popular Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant programs. The grant programs are for hiring firefighters and providing equipment and training.
In the initial version of the spending bill the two programs were funded at $350 million, nearly a 60 percent cut from current funding. The average cut in the DHS spending bill was 14 percent, LaTourette said. The LaTourette amendment, offered jointly with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), set funding levels at $670 million, a 19 percent cut, with the funds equally divided between the two programs. The spending bill contained $40.6 billion for DHS.
LaTourette said the additional $320 million for the fire grants came from transferring funds from bureaucratic functions in the DHS spending bill. The $670 million equals the Administration's request.
"When 9-11 happened, when tornadoes ripped through Joplin and the Midwest, and with historic flooding plaguing the country, it's not FEMA or DHS that arrives at the scene to conduct search and rescue missions," LaTourette. "FEMA and DHS play a vital role in natural disasters and terrorism, but we can't forget it's our local first responders who are first at the scene and the last to leave."
LaTourette mentioned the horrific flooding of the Grand River a few summers ago on the House Floor.
"I can just tell you that faced with amazing budget pressures back in our local communities, when the Grand River in Painesville, Ohio, flooded a couple of years ago, it wasn't FEMA, it wasn't the Coast Guard, it wasn't the National Guard that plucked these folks out of their homes and plucked them out of the river and saved their lives and saved their properties. It was our firefighters and our police officers," LaTourette said.