Congress Passes FY 2017 Appropriations, Including Funding for Major Fire Service Programs

On May 5, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 244) was signed into law. The bill provides funding for federal agencies and grant programs through the end of FY 2017.

Under H.R. 244, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs each receive $345 million, the same as in FY 2016. AFG provides funding to local fire departments to pay for equipment, apparatus, and training, while SAFER can be used to hire career firefighters or recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is funded at $44 million, also flat from FY 2016. USFA provides fire service training and engages in research and public fire safety education.

Congress included $15 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program in H.R. 244. VFA grants help volunteer fire departments protecting communities with populations of 10,000 or less prepare to respond to wildland fire. Last year the NVFC was successful in getting an amendment passed in the House of Representatives increasing VFA funding from $13 million to $15 million in the FY 2017 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. $15 million is the highest level of funding for VFA since FY 2011, when the program was funded at $15.7 million.