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House approves doubling SAFER funding

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill to double funding for the SAFER grant program
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill doubling funding for SAFER grants
Bill approved will increase funding for EMS staffing

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a Homeland Security Appropriation bill that doubles funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.

The bill calls for spending $420 million on the program, which provides grants to help communities hire fire fighters. The bill also provides funding for a variety of other fire service programs, including $390 million for the Assistance Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, commonly known as FIRE Act grants.

"As municipalities continue to struggle to fund fire department budgets, it is more important than ever that the federal government shoulder its share of the public safety burden," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "I applaud the House for recognizing the importance of the SAFER program, and for providing the resources we need to protect our members."

The SAFER appropriation is especially significant in light of a new law that expands the use of SAFER grants. Language contained in a supplemental appropriation bill, which has been signed into law by President Obama, will allow fire departments to use SAFER funds to rehire fire fighters who were laid off and restore cuts made to staffing as a result of the financial crisis, in addition to providing grants to grow fire departments.

Before giving final approval to the legislation, the House overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have cut funding for the SAFER and FIRE Act grant programs by a vote of 113-318. The amendment, offered by Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), would have reduced funding for the FIRE Act and SAFER program by $210 million.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where a similar funding bill has already won approval in the Appropriations Committee. The full Senate is likely to act on the spending bill within the next few weeks. Both the House and Senate have made it a priority to fund President Obama's request for doubling the SAFER budget.

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