AFG/SAFER Increase, Rural EMS Grant Funding, and Volunteer R&R Incentive Pass Congress

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law appropriations legislation funding the federal government through the end of FY 2020. The bills, H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158, include the following provisions:

  • $355 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs, up from $350 million each in FY 2019. AFG provides funding to fire departments and certain EMS agencies to purchase equipment, training, and/or vehicles, as well as funding health and safety initiatives. SAFER pays for hiring, recruitment, and retention of volunteer and career firefighters.
  • Restores the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA) for the 2020 tax year, exempting property tax benefits and up to $600 of additional incentives (like stipends) that volunteers receive as a reward for their service from being subject to federal income tax and reporting.
  • $5 million for the SIREN grant program, which was created by Congress in 2018. SIREN is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and will provide grant awards of $200,000 or less to rural EMS agencies.
  • $46.8 million for the U.S. Fire Administration, up from $44.2 million in FY 2019. USFA provides training to more than 80,000 fire and emergency services personnel each year, performs research and collects data specific to the fire service and fire service activities, and educates the public on the importance of fire safety.
  • $18 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance/Rural Fire Capacity (VFA/RFC) grant program, up from $17 million in FY 2019. VFA/RFC provides 50/50 matching grants to all- and mostly-volunteer fire departments protecting communities with populations of 10,000 or fewer residents to prepare to respond to wildland fire.
  • $2.5 million for the National Firefighter Registry, which was created by Congress in 2018 and is in the process of being set up by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Registry will collect occupational and other information about firefighters on a voluntary basis, and will connect that information with data from state cancer registries if and when participating firefighters contract cancer. $2.5 million is the maximum funding level authorized by Congress for the Registry.
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