The Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate both recently approved FY 2013 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bills, providing funding for several programs that are crucial to the volunteer emergency services. The House version provides $335 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, $2.5 million less than was appropriated for each in FY 2012 but consistent with the President’s FY 2013 budget request. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has asked Congress to provide $405 million each for AFG and SAFER, the same level provided in FY 2011.
The House bill stipulates that not more than 4.7 percent of funds appropriated for AFG/SAFER be used for program administration. An amendment adopted by voice vote during the full committee markup “waives restrictions on SAFER firefighter grants, allowing the retention of existing firefighter personnel.”
The House bill also provides $42.46 million for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a reduction of $1.578 million from the appropriated level in FY 2012 and $60,000 below the President’s budget request. The NVFC is seeking a minimum of $44.038 million, the same as was provided in FY 2012.
Finally, the House bill provides $1.763 billion for various state and local grant programs administered by FEMA, an increase of $413 million over the FY 2012 appropriated level and $220 million above the President’s budget request. The House also rejected a proposal in the President’s request to merge the FEMA state and local grant programs into a National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP), “due to the lack of Congressional authorization and the lack of the necessary details that are required for the initiation of a new program to include grant guidance and implementation plans.” The NVFC has expressed concern with the proposed NPGP for essentially the same reasons cited in the House committee report.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY 2013 DHS spending bill is similar to the House’s version but contains slightly different funding levels. The Senate provides $337.5 million each for AFG and SAFER, rejecting the small reduction proposed in the President’s budget request and contained in the House bill. The Senate bill provides $44.02 million for USFA (an $18,000 reduction), $1.541 million for the FEMA state and local grant programs, and rejects the administration’s NPGP proposal. The House and Senate bills both provide an identical $350 million for the Emergency Management Performance Grant program, flat funding from FY 2012.
Now that the committees have passed spending bills, the next step will be consideration by the House followed by the Senate. The NVFC will continue to be engaged as this process moves forward to ensure that adequate funding is provided for programs that are critical to the volunteer emergency services.