Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2013 Spending Measure

Today the House of Representatives approved H.R. 933, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013.  The spending measure will keep existing budget caps, setting discretionary spending authority at $984 billion after sequestration is taken into account.  This is a reduction of $59 billion from Fiscal Year 2012.

The bill provides $39.609 billion for the Department of Homeland Security.  Within that amount is funding for the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program and the United States Fire Administration.  On a positive note, the bill maintains fiscal year 2012 levels of funding for both the AFG and SAFER grant programs.    

Although both programs were subject to sequestration cuts, the actual grant funding awarded to the fire service will remain virtually the same.  That is because the legislation instructs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for administration of the grants programs from the FEMA "Salaries and Expense" account.  In past fiscal years, five percent of the appropriated funds were designated to cover administrative costs.  So even though the cuts imposed by sequestration results in H.R. 933 funding both programs at $320 million (compared to $337.5 million in FY12), there is little change in the actual dollar amount available for the grants between the two fiscal years. 

Unfortunately, the legislation further reduces funding for the United States Fire Administration (USFA).  The bill imposes an across-the-board reduction of 0.092% to all programs in the Department of Homeland Security.  Moreover, sequestration mandates that all programs be cut by 5%.  As a result, USFA will be funded at approximately $42 million in Fiscal Year 2013, down from $44 million in Fiscal Year 2012. 

The House first approved the spending measure on March 6th.  On March 20th, the Senate approved an amended version of the House bill, providing several government agencies more flexibility under the cuts mandated by sequestration.  The amended bill was then sent back to the House for approval.  The spending measure will now go the White House for the President's signature.  Congress is expected to begin work on Fiscal Year 2014 spending bills in the coming weeks.

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