Homeland Security Grants : Law Enforcement, Firefighters, other First Responders - FY03-04

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SAFER Grants - Assistance to Firefighters Grants - Homeland Security Grants & Funding

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A note about these pages.  Soon after the Department of Homeland Security formed and SAFER, Assistance to Firefighter Grants and homeland security grants became part of everyday language, this and other homeland security grants info pages on this web site were the only source on the web for up-to-date info.  At that time we were even better organized than DHS.  Now that DHS is up and running they're your best bet for current information.  You'll still find a ton of useful info here, though.

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SAFER Grants

Update: May 28, 2005

Beginning May 31, 2005, at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin accepting applications for SAFER grants. The deadline for receipt of the SAFER grant applications will be 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on June 28, 2005.

The applications will be automated and will be accessible from the website for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program at http://www.firegrantsupport.com. The Website also provides useful information on the program priorities and process that are discussed in the SAFER Program Guidance. A list of Frequently Asked Questions is being added, and will be updated as the program staff learns the areas of inquiry that are most often presented.

An applicant tutorial on the SAFER grant, designed to instruct users on the preparation and submittal of competitive applications, will also be available at www.firegrantsupport.com by Monday, May 30. Applicants who have questions regarding the SAFER grant opportunities should contact the help desk at 1-866-274-0960 or at firegrants@dhs.gov. During the SAFER application period, the help desk will operate Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (EDT), but is prepared to revise hours of operation based on volume and demand.

Eligible applicants for SAFER grants include fire departments (for the hiring of firefighters) and state or local organizations as well as volunteer and combination fire departments (for volunteer recruitment and retention grants). Applicants will note that the SAFER application is very similar in appearance to the "fire grants" application, but all applicants are strongly encouraged to read the program guidance, and utilize all other materials at the AFG website.

The AFG is administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (SLGCP) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. Through the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2005, Congress provided $65 million for the SAFER»

Previous Update: IAFF -- SAFER Funding Approved!

October 19, 2004 -- The IAFF won a major victory October 11 when Congress gave final approval to a Homeland Security Appropriation bill that includes the first funding for the new SAFER program. The SAFER program, which provides grants to hire additional fire fighters, was created last year, but no funding had yet been allocated for it.

The $65 million provided for the program is a far cry from what is needed to address the critical staffing shortage facing America's fire departments, but the approval of this funding will require the Department of Homeland Security to begin establishing the procedures and criteria for local fire departments to apply for these grants. Even though the number of grants awarded in the first year of the program will not be substantial, creating the infrastructure for the program will enable the IAFF and its allies on Capitol Hill to grow the funding level in future years.

"Congress has taken an enormous stride forward in protecting all Americans," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "No single federal program will have a greater impact on the health and safety of our members and the people we protect than SAFER."

The road to securing funding for SAFER has not been an easy one. President Bush opposed providing any money for the program, and the overall budget plan for the year called for steep cuts in programs benefiting first responders.

However, now that SAFER has been funded, the action will turn to the Department of Homeland Security, which must write regulations implementing the program. Exactly which agency within DHS will administer the program remains to be seen. The law grants authority over SAFER to the U.S. Fire Administration, but Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge may prefer to run the program out of the Office of State and Local Coordination and Preparedness - a new agency that specializes in making grants.

The SAFER law provides grants of up to $100,000 for salary and benefits of a fire fighter over a four-year period. The federal share of the fire fighter's compensation decreases each year with the locality picking up the remainder. The federal share in the first year is 90 percent, 80 percent in the second, 50 percent in the third year, and 30 percent in the fourth. The locality must agree to pay 100 percent of the salary and benefits of the position for at least one additional year. The $100,000 cap is indexed to inflation.

Grants must be used to hire additional fire fighters. Fire departments cannot apply for federal funds to pay the salary of fire fighters already on the job, or to fill vacancies created through attrition.

The procedures and criteria for grant applications will be developed by federal Homeland Security personnel in the weeks ahead, and the IAFF will be working closely with these federal officials to ensure a fair and transparent process.

Previous Reports on SAFER Grants

Summary:  SAFER grants will provide states, local governments, tribal organizations, public entities and regional consortia with funds to hire additional staff including firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, rescue workers, ambulance personnel and hazardous materials workers for local fire departments.

Excerpted from H.R. 1588 Title X, Subtitle F, Section 1057

Expansion Of Pre-September 11, 2001, Fire Grant Program.

(a) Expanded Authority to Make Grants-

(1) Hiring Grants

(A) The Administrator shall make grants directly to career, volunteer, and combination fire departments, in consultation with the chief executive of the State in which the applicant is located, 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, and to fulfill traditional missions of fire departments that antedate the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

(B)(i) Grants made under this paragraph shall be for 4 years and be used for programs to hire new, additional firefighters.

(ii) Grantees are required to commit to retaining for at least 1 year beyond the termination of their grants those firefighters hired under this paragraph.

(C) In awarding grants under this subsection, the Administrator may give preferential consideration to applications that involve a non-Federal contribution exceeding the minimums under subparagraph (E).

(D) The Administrator may provide technical assistance to States, units of local government, Indian tribal governments, and to other public entities, in furtherance of the purposes of this section.

(E) The portion of the costs of hiring firefighters provided by a grant under this paragraph may not exceed--

(i) 90 percent in the first year of the grant;

(ii) 80 percent in the second year of the grant;

(iii) 50 percent in the third year of the grant; and

(iv) 30 percent in the fourth year of the grant.

(F) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any firefighter hired with funds provided under this subsection shall not be discriminated against for, or be prohibited from, engaging in volunteer activities in another jurisdiction during off-duty hours.

(G) All grants made pursuant to this subsection shall be awarded on a competitive basis through a neutral peer review process.

(H) At the beginning of the fiscal year, the Administrator shall set aside 10 percent of the funds appropriated for carrying out this paragraph for departments with majority volunteer or all volunteer personnel. After awards have been made, if less than 10 percent of the funds appropriated for carrying out this paragraph are not awarded to departments with majority volunteer or all volunteer personnel, the Administrator shall transfer from funds appropriated for carrying out this paragraph to funds available for carrying out paragraph (2) an amount equal to the difference between the amount that is provided to such fire departments and 10 percent.

(2) Recruitment and Retention Grants

In addition to any amounts transferred under paragraph (1)(H), the Administrator shall direct at least 10 percent of the total amount of funds appropriated pursuant to this section annually to a competitive grant program for the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters who are involved with or trained in the operations of firefighting and emergency response. Eligible entities shall include volunteer or combination fire departments, and organizations on a local or statewide basis that represent the interests of volunteer firefighters.

(b) Applications

(1) No grant may be made under this section unless an application has been submitted to, and approved by, the Administrator.

(2) An application for a grant under this section shall be submitted in such form, and contain such information, as the Administrator may prescribe.

(3) At a minimum, each application for a grant under this section shall--

(A) explain the applicant's inability to address the need without Federal assistance;

(B) in the case of a grant under subsection (a)(1), explain how the applicant plans to meet the requirements of subsection (a)(1)(B)(ii) and (F);

(C) specify long-term plans for retaining firefighters following the conclusion of Federal support provided under this section; and

(D) provide assurances that the applicant will, to the extent practicable, seek, recruit, and hire members of racial and ethnic minority groups and women in order to increase their ranks within firefighting.

(c) Limitation on Use of Funds

(1) Funds made available under this section to fire departments for salaries and benefits to hire new, additional firefighters shall not be used to supplant State or local funds, or, in the case of Indian tribal governments, funds supplied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but shall be used to increase the amount of funds that would, in the absence of Federal funds received under this section, be made available from State or local sources, or in the case of Indian tribal governments, from funds supplied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

(2) No grant shall be awarded pursuant to this section to a municipality or other recipient whose annual budget at the time of the application for fire-related programs and emergency response has been reduced below 80 percent of the average funding level in the 3 years prior to the date of enactment of this section.

(3) Funds appropriated by the Congress for the activities of any agency of an Indian tribal government or the Bureau of Indian Affairs performing firefighting functions on any Indian lands may be used to provide the non-Federal share of the cost of programs or projects funded under this section.

(4)(A) Total funding provided under this section over 4 years for hiring a firefighter may not exceed $100,000.

(B) The $100,000 cap shall be adjusted annually for inflation beginning in fiscal year 2005.

(d) Performance Evaluation

The Administrator may require a grant recipient to submit any information the Administrator considers reasonably necessary to evaluate the program.

(e) Sunset and Reports

The authority under this section to make grants shall lapse at the conclusion of 10 years from the date of enactment of this section. Not later than 6 years after the date of the enactment of this section, the Administrator shall submit a report to Congress concerning the experience with, and effectiveness of, such grants in meeting the objectives of this section. The report may include any recommendations the Administrator may have for amendments to this section and related provisions of law.

(f) Revocation or Suspension of Funding

If the Administrator determines that a grant recipient under this section is not in substantial compliance with the terms and requirements of an approved grant application submitted under this section, the Administrator may revoke or suspend funding of that grant, in whole or in part.

(g) Access to Documents

(1) The Administrator shall have access for the purpose of audit and examination to any pertinent books, documents, papers, or records of a grant recipient under this section and to the pertinent books, documents, papers, or records of State and local governments, persons, businesses, and other entities that are involved in programs, projects, or activities for which assistance is provided under this section.

(2) Paragraph (1) shall apply with respect to audits and examinations conducted by the Comptroller General of the United States or by an authorized representative of the Comptroller General.

(h) Definitions

In this section, the term--

(1) `firefighter' has the meaning given the term `employee in fire protection activities' under section 3(y) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 203(y)); and

(2) `Indian tribe' means a tribe, band, pueblo, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians, including an Alaska Native village (as defined in or established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)), that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.

(i) Authorization of Appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated for the purposes of carrying out this section--

(1) $1,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2004;

(2) $1,030,000,000 for fiscal year 2005;

(3) $1,061,000,000 for fiscal year 2006;

(4) $1,093,000,000 for fiscal year 2007;

(5) $1,126,000,000 for fiscal year 2008;

(6) $1,159,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

(7) $1,194,000,000 for fiscal year 2010.

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