FY 2016 Appropriations Stalled in House and Senate

House Agrees to $1 Million Increase for Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Program; House/Senate Committee Bills Provide Flat Funding for AFG/SAER and USFA

Coming into this year, the Majority Leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate planned to pass FY 2016 appropriations bills individually and in a timely fashion. Less than three months before the end of FY 2015, it appears that this goal will not be met. In the Senate, disagreement over overall spending levels has prompted Democrats to block consideration of appropriations bills. Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans have decided not to bring up any more appropriations bills in order to avoid having to face controversial votes on the Confederate flag.

Although individual appropriations bills are stalled for the time being, the parameters of FY 2016 spending levels for important volunteer fire service programs are emerging. On July 7, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to H.R. 2822, the FY 2016 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, to increase funding for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program by $1 million. VFA provides funding to volunteer fire departments to purchase equipment and training for use in wildland fire suppression. The amendment, which was offered by Representative Polis (D-CO) and was adopted by a unanimous voice vote, increases FY 2016 VFA funding from $13 million to $14 million.

“I’d like to thank Representatives Polis, King, and Ruiz for offering this important amendment,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chairman Kevin D. Quinn. “Volunteer fire departments provide nearly 80 percent of the initial attack on wildland fires in the United States. VFA provides funding to help agencies purchase equipment and training that they need to safely and effectively respond to wildland fire.”

Increasing VFA funding is one of the NVFC’s top legislative priorities. Unfortunately, the House suspended consideration of H.R. 2822 before a vote on final passage because of the Confederate flag controversy. The Senate version of the bill provides $13 million for VFA.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed work on FY 2016 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bills, which fund the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs as well as the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Both the House and Senate bills provide level funding for AFG/SAFER ($340 million each) and USFA ($44 million). This is higher than the level requested by the President but lower than the amounts requested by the NVFC.

The NVFC will continue to monitor FY 2016 appropriations to protect and increase funding for critical volunteer fire service programs. We will provide periodic updates through our weekly Dispatch newsletter. If you would like to receive Action Alerts when important votes are happening, click here to sign up.