Last week, U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., showcased his support for U.S. Rep. Jared Golden’s, D-Maine, bill to “reauthorize and increase federal resources for local fire departments across the nation” and add more federal funds for local fire departments to address staffing shortages, purchase new equipment, and improve training and emergency services.”
“The Fire Grants and Safety Act would reauthorize funding for three key initiatives: the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. Since 2021, Maine fire departments have been awarded over $4 million in SAFER grants to assist in hiring new staff and more than $14 million in AFG grants. Without Congressional intervention, all three programs are set to expire starting in 2023 – endangering future recruitment, training, retention, and outfitting efforts,” Gimenez’s office noted.
Golden introduced the “Fire Grants and Safety Act” with Gimenez and U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and Dan Kildee, D-Mich., as co-sponsors.
“Fire departments in rural areas are experiencing significant losses in staffing and slowing interest in the volunteer fire fighting work that is critical to smaller communities. In 2021, Monroe County was awarded over $5.6 million through the grants to assist in the hiring of firefighters. In 2021-2022, Miami-Dade County was awarded over $2.3 million for operations and safety,” the congressman’s office noted.
“As a former firefighter and chief of the City of Miami Fire Rescue Department, I know firsthand how crucial these vital programs and resources are to adequately prepare firefighters to respond to emergencies and protect our communities,” he said. “In the past, both Monroe County and Miami-Dade County have benefited immensely from such initiatives. In Congress, it is our responsibility to support firemen as they make every effort to keep communities in South Florida and across the country safe.”
“The Mainers who make up our fire departments put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors,” said Golden. “The federal government has a responsibility to ensure they have what they need to do their job and do it well. Increasing access to these resources – especially at a time of staff shortages throughout Maine – is just common sense. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help advance this funding for departments in the Second District and across the country.”
“Our fire fighters keep us safe, and we must ensure they have the resources necessary to protect our communities,” said Kildee. “That’s why I’m working with Republicans and Democrats to provide critical federal funding for local fire departments. This bipartisan legislation will support mid-Michigan fire departments and fire fighters so they can be ready when our community needs them.”
“Communities across our country rely on local fire departments to keep residents safe in the event of a life-threatening crisis,” said Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to co-lead bipartisan legislation that will support volunteer fire departments and assist with volunteer recruitment and retention.”
The International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Fire Protection Association are behind the bill.
Golden’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are championing the bill in the U.S. Senate.
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