Senate Homeland Security Committee Unanimously Approves AFG/SAFER Reauthorization Bill

On May 17, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017. S. 829 extends the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program through 2023 and eliminates a provision in current law that would cause AFG and SAFER to be eliminated in January 2018.

AFG and SAFER are competitive grant programs that provide matching funds in the form of direct grants to fire departments and non-fire-based EMS agencies to help them reach a baseline level of preparedness. Through AFG, local departments receive funding to purchase training, equipment, and apparatus as well as pay for health and safety programs. SAFER grants can be used to pay for hiring career firefighters or for recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters.

During the committee’s discussion of S. 829 the bill’s sponsor, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), entered a letter of support from the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and other national fire service organizations into the record. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) stated that while reauthorization of AFG and SAFER are critical, it is also important for Congress to make sure that the programs are adequately funded.

“I commend the members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for their unanimous support for reauthorizing the AFG and SAFER grant programs,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “It is absolutely vital that S. 829 is enacted as quickly as possible to ensure that these important programs are not eliminated, and this action by the committee is a welcome first step.”

S. 829 was introduced on April 5 by Senator McCain, along with original co-sponsors Thomas Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jon Tester (D-MT). Having been approved at the committee level, the next step for S. 829 is to be taken up and passed by the full Senate.