House Passes FY 2018 Appropriations Bill

On September 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3354, omnibus appropriations legislation to fund the federal government in FY 2018. The bill provides $345 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which helps fire departments purchase equipment, training, and apparatus. It also includes $365 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which pays for the hiring and retention of career firefighters, as well as recruitment and retention of volunteers. AFG and SAFER were both funded at $345 million in FY 2017. Both programs were funded at $345 million in the initial bill but an amendment increasing SAFER by $20 million was adopted on the House floor.

H.R. 3354 also includes $44.41 million for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an increase of $410,000 over FY 2017. The initial House bill provided just $43.41 million and eliminated funding to assist state fire training agencies in delivering USFA-developed courses. An amendment offered by Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) that the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) supported restoring the state fire training funds and increasing USFA’s overall funding level by $1 million was adopted on the House floor.

The bill also provides $16 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) and $87 million for the State Fire Assistance (SFA) programs, consistent with the level requested by the NVFC in May. VFA and SFA assist local fire departments and states, respectively, in preparing to respond to wildland fire. An amendment offered by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Peter King (R-NY), and Jim Renacci (R-OH) and supported by the NVFC increased combined VFA and SFA funding by $12.371 million.

Having passed the House, H.R. 3354 now goes to the Senate, which has yet to take up any full-year FY 2018 appropriations bills. Although the current fiscal year expires on September 30, Congress did pass legislation earlier this month funding the federal government into December. That bill, H.R. 601, also included supplemental disaster relief funding and was signed into law on September 8. Final FY 2018 funding levels for federal programs and agencies will not be determined until Congress passes a full-year appropriations bill.