Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Provides $30 Million Less for AFG

On July 14, the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY 2011, including providing $390 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and $420 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
 
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) supports full funding (approximately $1 billion each) for both AFG and SAFER but also recognizes the difficult fiscal situation in the country today. In March, the NVFC joined with other fire service groups to send letters to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking that they provide $420 million each for AFG and SAFER in FY 2011 – a $30 million increase for AFG and flat funding for SAFER.
 
Last year, Congress reduced AFG funding by more than 30 percent, from $565 million to $390 million, after President Obama proposed slashing the program to $170 million. Close to 20,000 fire departments across the country apply for more than $3 billion annually to purchase apparatus, equipment, and training through AFG. Thousands of additional applications for funding are submitted through the Fire Prevention and Safety grant program each year as well, the funding for which comes from the money that Congress appropriates for AFG.
 
In May, a group of 39 Senators sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee asking them to provide funding for AFG and SAFER consistent with the level requested by NVFC and the other fire service groups. The House version of the same spending bill, which was approved by the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in June, provides the $420 million each for AFG and SAFER that was requested by the fire service.
 
“I’m disappointed that the Senate appropriators have ignored the requests of both the fire service and nearly 40 percent of their colleagues in the Senate and are instead proposing to fund AFG at a level that would equal the lowest appropriation for the program since FY 2002,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “The fire service calibrated our funding request recognizing that because of the ongoing economic difficulties in this country, large increases were not likely to be feasible. We will continue to work with our allies in both houses of Congress to ensure that AFG and SAFER receive adequate funding for the coming fiscal year.”

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