NVFC Asks FEMA, HHS to Direct Resources to Emergency Response Departments

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is working to ensure that fire, EMS, and rescue departments have adequate resources to maintain services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created new challenges for agencies related to response, health and safety, fundraising, training, and recruitment and retention.

On April 2, the NVFC sent a letter to Peter Gaynor, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), asking that FEMA move quickly to make grant awards with funding that has been appropriated. There is currently $705 million each in Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant funding from FY 2019 and FY 2020 that has been appropriated by Congress but has yet to be awarded. Additionally, Congress recently appropriated $100 million in emergency AFG funding as part of the CARES Act to help fire and EMS departments purchase personal protective equipment to protect against coronavirus exposures.

The FY 2019 AFG application period has closed, but the first awards have not been made yet. FEMA had planned to hold the AFG peer review panel the last week in March but had to cancel that due to pandemic-related restrictions on travel and meetings. A remote panel has been scheduled for later this month. On April 7, FEMA announced that the FY 2019 SAFER application period will open on April 13 and close on May 15. On April 9, FEMA announced that the application period for the emergency AFG funding appropriated as part of the CARES Act will open soon. FEMA held a meeting with national stakeholder organizations on April 8 to discuss criteria for the CARES Act funding.

“I’d like to thank Administrator Gaynor and the FEMA Grants Office staff for working hard to get grant money to the fire and EMS departments that need it as quickly as possible,” said NVFC Chair Steve Hirsch. “With the all of the challenges facing emergency services agencies right now it is critical that we do everything possible to get available resources distributed efficiently and equitably.”

On April 6, the NVFC sent a letter to Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking that 10 percent of $100 billion appropriated by Congress for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund as part of the CARES Act be reserved for fire and EMS agencies, and that HHS move quickly to open an application period. The letter also asks for information about how the application process will work, how fire and EMS agencies can apply, and what activities will be eligible for funding.