FEMA Announces $25 Million in SAFER Grants for Fire Fighters
June 25, 2010 -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded another round of grants – totaling $25,786,555 -- to IAFF affiliates through the Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) program for Fiscal Year 2009.
“This is very good news for these fire departments, which have been struggling to remain fully staffed and serving their communities through tough economic times,” said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “These SAFER grants are putting more than 1,000 fire fighters back to work, and state and local governments should approve them as expeditiously as possible.”
IAFF departments have now received $134 million in SAFER grants since March 31. The grants that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is distributing now are fulfilling $210 million available in Fiscal Year 2009. Another $420 million has been appropriated for Fiscal Year 2010 and will be available under the new guidelines negotiated by the IAFF that allow SAFER funds to be used to rehire fire fighters laid off as a result of the economic crisis. The grants available in Fiscal Year 2010 will restore another 3,400 jobs.
Fall River, MA Local 1314 received $10,837,003 in this latest round, the largest SAFER grant awarded so far to a single community. Local 1314 President Michael Coogan says budget cuts have reduced Fall River’s count of fire fighters by about one third.
The grant, which he expects will win easy approval from local lawmakers, will help make 44 one-year positions permanent and will add another 44 positions, returning fire fighter staffing to levels not seen since 2008.
“This grant award has been a big boost to morale because a lot of fire fighters here have been concerned about their job security,” says Coogan, who expects to add fire fighters before the end of the year. “This will allow us to better protect the community and our membership.”
Other communities receiving SAFER grants in this round were: Chelsea (Massachusetts) Fire Department, $1,827,300; City of Clermont (Florida) Fire Department, $212,452; City of Petaluma (California) Fire Department, $1,230,180;
Cleveland (Ohio) Fire Department, $1,029,725; Kokomo (Indiana) Fire Department, $1,946,640; and New Orleans (Louisiana) Fire Department, $8,535,389.
Once a round of awards is determined, city officials must tell FEMA that it has accepted the grant. FEMA must then give Congress three days’ notice before the official public announcement is made.
While the majority of SAFER grants have been accepted by local officials, some IAFF affiliates have experienced trouble getting their cities to accept the grants. Some local officials have resisted hiring back fire fighters at a time when tight budgets are forcing cuts among other public sector employees.
For instance, Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District (represented by Southwest Florida Professional Fire Fighters Local 1826) was awarded nearly $9 million in SAFER funding in May. The City, however, initially balked at accepting the funding citing a number of reasons.
The IAFF, with the help of FEMA, was able to clarify misconceptions about the grant and convince Lehigh Acres officials to accept the funding.
SAFER grants for Fiscal Year 2010 could be made available as early as this summer.