U.S. House Passes Measure to Restore Funding for Elite Urban Search & Rescue Teams

The House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Congressmen Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), to restore $7.7 million in federal funding for the 28 federal Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, including Virginia Task Force 1 (VA-TF 1) based in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
The Grimm-Connolly amendment passed the House Wednesday during consideration of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2217).  The measure restores funding for the USAR teams to the Fiscal Year 2013 level.  The increased appropriation for the USAR teams was offset by a cut of $7.7 million from DHS administrative funding to make it deficit neutral.
New York City is home to USAR Task Force 1, composed of NYC fire, EMS, and police.  In the Washington, DC area, two of the DHS/FEMA USAR teams are located in Virginia – Fairfax County and Virginia Beach – and a third team is located in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The Grimm-Connolly amendment was endorsed by every major fire service organization, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  In a letter to the two congressmen, the organizations said the USAR teams are "essential to our nation's homeland security," and said the funding restored by the amendment "will significantly enhance the nation's preparedness and response capabilities."
The fire service organizations praised Connolly and Grimm for their leadership on preserving the USAR team funding.  Both congressmen have been stalwart advocates of the USAR teams in the House of Representatives and have repeatedly fought efforts to cut funding for the program. 
"These 28 USAR teams are not just first responders.  For people awaiting rescue, they are the last hope.  These elite, specialized teams have saved countless lives following natural and manmade disasters and terrorist attacks here in the United States and abroad.  Restoring needed funding for these highly-skilled, specialized teams is a wise investment," Connolly said.
"Urban search and rescue teams play a crucial role in recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath of a disaster," said Rep. Grimm. "They have come to the rescue of Americans in need after events such as Superstorm Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and the attacks on 9/11. While current funding levels are still insufficient to fully maintain each task force, further cuts would be detrimental – shifting costs to local governments and diverting funds away from local first responder budgets.  I am pleased that my colleagues see the value in this program and have joined me in saving it from cuts." 

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