New funding policy expected to benefit volunteer departments

New funding policy expected to benefit volunteer departments

In an effort to acquire more funding for the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) program, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the National Association of State Foresters, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service have been working with Congress to change the funding authority for the RCFP program.

The RCFP and the Rural Fire Prevention and Control (RFPC) programs previously constituted the Cooperative Fire Programs. The RFPC program was funded through the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the RCFP program through the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Clinton Administration has proposed that beginning in Fiscal Year 1999, the Cooperative Fire Programs be brought together and funded solely through the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in a new budget line item “Cooperative Fire Protection.” The new line items would have two expanded budget line items: (1) State Fire Assistance, which will be the redesignation of the RFPC program, and (2) “Volunteer Fire Assistance,” formerly the RCFP program. The state Fire Assistance program (formerly RFPC) provides technical assistance and matching grants to the state forestry agencies from the Forest Service. Much of this funding is used by the states to fund essential firefighter safety and technical training programs.

The Volunteer Fire Assistance program item will continue to support rural volunteer fire departments by providing matching funds, through state forestry agencies, for fire department training, equipment, and organization.

To see that the Volunteer Fire Assistance item is successfully transferred to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee budget, the NVFC will work to educate the members of the Subcommittee on the importance of the volunteer fire service and of funding this program at an appropriate level. The NVFC is advocating a 1999 appropriation of $3.5 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance program and is asking that members of the fire service contact their legislators to request that this appropriation be made, since it “reflects the benefits provided to America`s rural communities by volunteer fire departments.” For additional information, contact Bruce Beardmore, NVFC, (202) 887-5700; fax: (202) 887-5291.

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