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Legislation doubling SAFER funding will soon become law

A House-Senate Conference Committee has now approved an increase in SAFER grant funding which will enable the hiring of thousands of firefighters
A House-Senate Conference Committee has approved an increase in SAFER grant funding
New funding will enable hiring of thousands of firefighters

A House-Senate Conference Committee has approved a final version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriation for FY 2010 that doubles funding for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. HR 2892 increases the SAFER appropriation to $420 million, providing funding to hire thousands of firefighters. The bill passed the House on October 15 by a vote of 307-114, and is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

The SAFER appropriation is especially significant in light of a new law expanding the use of SAFER grants. The law allows fire departments to use SAFER funds to rehire firefighters 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. The law also waives the local funding match for SAFER in 2009 and 2010. The IAFF has been encouraging DHS to expedite publication of the revised guidance for SAFER, which is expected to be released this month.

"With the passage of this bill, fire departments nationwide will be afforded the opportunity to rehire and retain critical fire fighting personnel," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "With more than $630 million in match-free federal funding available over the next year and a half, no fire department need sacrifice jobs to achieve a balanced budget."

Representatve David Price (D-NC), and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security in their respective chambers, were instrumental in providing the generous funding.

HR 2892 also funds numerous other programs of importance to firefighters, including $390 million for Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grants, $50 million for interoperable communications grants and $887 million in homeland security grants for urban areas.

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