On Wednesday, June 5th, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2217, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2014. The amendment, authored by Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), would increase the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants and the Assistance to Firefighter Grants (FIRE) by $2.5M each. The amendment passed by voice vote.
"I am pleased that the House of Representatives was able to come together again in a bipartisan manner and pass this amendment to ensure our first responders have adequate funding," said Congressman Runyan. "These grants play a vital role in helping equip or hire additional staff that our firefighters and emergency responders need to provide the best services possible. In these tough economic times it is important that we prioritize our nation's spending so that we can ensure adequate funding for critical groups, such as our nation's firefighters."
"Passage of this amendment affirms the remarkable bipartisan effort to ensure our nation's first responders have the resources to keep themselves and our communities safe," said Pascrell, who was a prime author and mover of both the SAFER and FIRE Acts. "Over the past two years, I have fought to restore nearly $1 billion to these critical programs. Ensuring the safety of our communities against the dangers of fire starts with providing our brave firefighters with the equipment and manpower they need."
The International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the National Fire Protection Association issued a statement in support of the amendment saying in part, "These two highly successful grant programs help ensure that our nation's 30,000 fire departments have the necessary training, equipment and staffing to respond to over 30 million emergency calls annually."
The Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey also endorsed the amendment by stating, "These programs help to ensure for all fire departments, avenues that enable them to acquire the necessary resources to perform their primary function; protect the lives and property of the citizens."
Runyan and Pascrell's amendment is revenue neutral and does not increase spending. The SAFER Grants were created to provide assistance to local communities to hire properly trained firefighters. The FIRE Grants were established in 2001 as a way to help first responders obtain the specialized equipment and resources that are needed to ensure the safety of their community.