With Fiscal Year 2013 Ending, FY 2014 Spending Bill Still in Limbo

FY 2014 will technically begin on October 1, but Congress has yet to approve a full-year appropriations bill for a single federal agency and is unlikely to do so anytime soon. As this article was being written, the House and Senate were going back and forth with different versions of a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government funded temporarily at FY 2013 levels.

The primary point of contention between the two houses is over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and whether or not the CR should defund or postpone implementation of the health care reform law. Another issue is whether or not the CR would include an increase in the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit, which will be reached sometime in the near future. If the House and Senate fail to reach agreement on even a temporary CR prior to October 1 the federal government would effectively shut down.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2217, the FY 2014 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which funds a number of programs and agencies that are important to the volunteer fire and EMS community. H.R. 2217 provides $340 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs. It also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44 million.

The full Senate has not taken up FY 2014 DHS appropriations to this point but the Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would fund AFG and SAFER at $337.5 million each and USFA at $44 million. Although the Senate bill provides $2.5 million less for each of AFG and SAFER, it also funds program administration costs for both programs out of a separate account, which means that the entire appropriated amount would be distributed in the form of grants.

Another priority for the NVFC is the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program, which is funded through the Interior Appropriations bill and provides matching grants to volunteer fire departments serving communities of 10,000 or fewer residents to purchase equipment and training to help them prepare to fight wildland fires. The House Appropriations Committee is considering a draft version of the FY 2014 Interior Appropriations Act that would reduce VFA funding from approximately $13 million last year to $11.2 million. The NVFC has asked that VFA funding be restored to the FY 2010 level of $16 million. You can use the NVFC’s Capwiz service to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to provide $16 million for VFA in FY 2014.

The NVFC will continue to monitor the federal appropriations process and provide timely updates through the Dispatch newsletter as developments happen. The NVFC advocates in Washington, DC, on behalf of the volunteer fire and EMS community and we periodically notify members about important votes that are happening or bills that have been introduced so that you can weigh in with your elected representatives. Click here to sign up to receive these Capwiz notifications from the NVFC.