February 5, 2023

Cobb Island Receives Assistance to Firefighters Grant

Assistance to Firefighters

Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department and EMS won a $217,715 Assistance to Firefighters Grant through FEMA, to replace the department’s Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), as well as replacing the department’s breathing air compressor system.

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, a champion of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, announced the award shortly before he and five other representatives, from both parties, introduced Sept. 30, 2017, a bill to reauthorize the AFG program as well as the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant programs. Congressional authorization for these grants expired Oct. 1, 2017, and sunsets on Jan. 2, 2018.

Each year more than one million fire and emergency services personnel respond to over 30 million emergency calls across the country. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that more than 30,000 fire departments continue to have access to the necessary training, equipment, and staffing to conduct emergency response missions and to continue to reduce community risk.

On-the-ground context, for Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department, Chief William A. Lawman Jr. said the grant made it possible to replace protective equipment for the firefighters that was becoming worn. “Without the help from the Assistance for Firefighters Grant it would not be possible for our department to replace all of our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and SCBA Compressor Fill Station,” he said.

In announcing the award, Congressman Hoyer echoed the chief. “These funds will be used for new protective equipment for the department. The hardworking men and women of the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department and EMS put their lives on the line for their community, and I’m pleased that these funds will support the important work they do,” the congressman said.

Congressman Hoyer is co-chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus, retaining a lead role in establishing the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and the SAFER Program. Every year he leads a letter with his colleagues in Congress to the Appropriations Committee to ensure enough money is appropriated for the program. More than $15 million has been awarded to fire departments in the Fifth District since the program was established.

The measure introduced this year would eliminate the sunset provision and increase funding for the programs. A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate where it, also has bipartisan support. The legislation has been endorsed by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Background on AFG, FP&S, and SAFER Grant program

Congress created these grant programs to help address the significant staffing, equipment, training, and health and safety needs of fire departments. The SAFER Grant program provides funding to cover the costs associated with hiring personnel to maintain safe staffing levels. The AFG program makes funds available for fire departments to purchase equipment, provide training, and meet other fire department needs. The FP&S Grant program provides assistance to fire departments to support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards in order to reduce injury and prevent death among high-risk populations. The current authorization for these vital programs expires in 2017.

Details of the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017

In order to improve upon the success of these grant programs, this legislation makes the following minor changes as part of the reauthorization:

  • Eliminates the sunset provision: This legislation removes the sunset provision in current authorization for these grant programs in order to keep the programs from expiring on January 2, 2018.
  • Extends the authorization date: This legislation extends the current AFG and SAFER Grant programs’ authorization levels of $750 million through FY 2023.
  • Individual waiver authority: The last authorization for the SAFER grant program allowed the FEMA Administrator the discretion to waive the local match requirement. Erroneously, the bill only waived the reference to the local match requirement in one part of the statute and not the other, creating a situation where FEMA is unable to exercise the waiver authority as Congress intended. This legislation makes the technical correction to ensure the waiver authority operates as Congress intended for jurisdictions with demonstrated local hardship. Erroneously, the statute only waives the reference to the local match requirement in one part of the statute and not the other, creating a situation where FEMA is unable to exercise the waiver authority as Congress intended. This legislation makes the technical correction to ensure the waiver authority operates as Congress intended for jurisdictions with demonstrated local hardship.
  • Improved oversight: This legislation requires the FEMA Administrator and Assistant Administrator for the Grant Program Directorate to make grants administration training available online so potential grant recipients are better able to access and manage grants. Additionally, the legislation requires the development and implementation of an oversight framework to reduce potential waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
  • Expanded use of SAFER funds: This bill expands the use for SAFER grants so that fire departments may change part-time or paid-on-call firefighters to full-time firefighters.

For more information about the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, visit its website.

Follow Congressman Hoyer on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, visit his Leader Page.

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