Legislative Victory! President Obama Signs AFG/SAFER Reauthorization Into Law

USFA Reauthorization and PSOB Improvements Act Also Enacted

The President signed the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310), which contained several NVFC priorities, into law on January 2. The bill reauthorizes 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) through fiscal year (FY) 2017. It also enacts the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program Improvements Act (PSOBIA), another NVFC priority.

Under H.R. 4310, volunteer, combination, and career departments will be guaranteed a minimum of 25 percent each of funds made available through AFG for purchasing equipment, apparatus, and training. Previously, all-volunteer departments were guaranteed a percentage of funds equal to the percentage of the population that they protected, approximately 18 percent as of 2011. The bill also reauthorizes USFA for five years, without making any substantive programmatic changes. By reauthorizing AFG, SAFER, and USFA, Congress and the President renewed their commitment to the long-term success of these critical programs in the midst of a hyper-partisan atmosphere and difficult budgetary situation.

PSOBIA explicitly defines volunteer members of private, nonprofit EMS agencies as eligible for PSOB. It also clarifies that public safety officers who suffer a fatal vascular rupture injury in the line of duty qualify for PSOB under the terms of the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act, which was enacted in 2003.

The NVFC was active in lobbying for the inclusion of these important provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act.