DHS Announces Round Six of SAFER Grant Awards
May 21, 2010 -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced several more grant awards through the Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) program for Fiscal Year 2009. The awards will help fire departments bring back laid-off fire fighters, retain current staffing levels and make new hires.
Click here for a complete list of departments that have received a SAFER grant for Fiscal Year 2009.
“It is always good news when these grants are announced, but these last rounds have been of special importance for some of our affiliates who have been waiting a long time to hear the news. I am especially pleased to see laid-off fire fighters returning to the job,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger.
“I also want to assure those affiliates that are waiting on awards that fire departments that have had layoffs are getting the highest priority and receiving their funding first.”
Among those fire departments bringing back laid-off fire fighters are Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District (represented by Southwest Florida Professional Fire Fighters Local 1826), Muncie, IN Local 1348, Akron, OH Local 330 and Orlando, FL Local 1365.
Lehigh Acres and Muncie’s awards were both announced on May 28. For Lehigh Acres, $8.9 million was awarded to fund 46 fire fighter positions – some are layoff rehires while others are staff retention.
Because of Florida’s Amendment 1 and the economic downturn, Lehigh Acres has lost 72 percent in the taxable income used to fund the fire department budget. Lehigh Acres is a taxing district, therefore, the fire department is funded solely by tax dollars.
The income loss forced the district to layoff 35 fire fighters. With the SAFER award, those fire fighter positions, plus 11 more, will be restored. “This will have a tremendous impact on the safety of our fire fighters and the community they serve,” says Local 1826 President Walt Stevens. “For too long, our members have been responding with the bare minimum. Now, they can return to a safer level of response.”
Muncie Local 1348 will rehire 25 of the 32 laid-off fire fighters with the $3.5 million award it received. “Our unfortunate reality is that our mayor would only agree to bring 25 back and only if we gave up the minimum staffing clause in our contract and drop two layoff-related grievances,” says Local 1348 President Michael Whited.
Whited adds, “Bringing back the 25 will allow us to put more fire apparatus on the street and more fire fighters per apparatus. That is certainly a big step in the right direction.”
Due in part to the strong support of U.S. Representative Betty Sutton (D-OH) and others, Akron, OH Local 330 received a $6 million award on May 21. With those dollars, Local 330 will bring back 38 laid-off fire fighters who received their pink slips in October 2009 to offset a projected budget deficit.
In April, the Orlando Fire Department received an $8.3 million SAFER grant to save the jobs of 46 Orlando, FL Local 1365 fire fighters who have faced the threat of layoffs for close to a year.
“It is no exaggeration that those guys were gone without this grant. This is a huge relief,” says Local 1365 President Steve Clelland.
Other awards announced in April include Columbia, SC Local 793 with $1.4 million; Los
Angeles County, CA Local 1014 with $3.5 million; Grand Rapids, MI Local 366 with $2.9 million; and Worcester, MA Local 1009 with $2.2 million.
In May, awards were also given to: Carmel Valley, CA Local 4096 with $772,000; San Bernardino City, CA Local 891 with $2.7 million; Edwardsville, KS (represented by Kansas City, KS Local 64) with $218,000; Huntington, IN Local 680 with $817,000; Farmington Hills, MI Local 2659 with $289,000; Muskegon Heights, MI Local 615 with $397,000; Niles, OH Local 320 with $240,000; Newport, KY Local 45 with $337,000; Richfield, MN Local 1215 with $305,000; Soledad, CA Local 4584 with $163,000; Tiffin, OH Local 322 with $280,000; Plymouth, MA 1768 with $627,000; Uniontown, PA Local 955 with $632,000; Westfield, MA Local 1111 with $268,000 and and Willimantic, CT Local 1033 with $263,000.
Once a round of awards is determined, the fire department/municipality must notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that it has accepted the grant. FEMA must then give Congress three days notice before the official public announcement is made.
Another $420 million in SAFER grants for Fiscal Year 2010 could be made available as soon as this summer – equal to as many as 3,400 jobs.