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Senators Coons applauds Senate passage of Fire Grants and Safety Act to help Delaware fire departments access funding

June 19, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) celebrated the Senate’s passage of the Fire Grants and Safety Act, which will help local fire departments access funding for training, personnel, and equipment. Several of the grant programs funded in the bill are particularly important to small and volunteer fire departments.

“Local departments in Delaware and across the country are struggling to meet the needs of the communities they serve, as fire and emergency services face rising call volumes, declining rates of volunteer firefighters, and low recruitment numbers,” said Senator Coons. “The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes crucial programs that allow local fire departments to acquire new equipment and maintain proper staffing levels. Swiftly enacting this reauthorization will protect our nation’s firefighters and keep more Delawareans safe.”

File Photo: Senator Chris Coons (DE) offer remarks prior to United States President Joe Biden remarks Monday, November 6, 2023; at Amtrak Maintenance Facilities in Bear, DE. Credit: Saquan Stimpson

Across the nation, many local fire departments struggle to address staffing needs. These shortages prevent departments from meeting industry staffing and response time standards, while placing firefighters at greater risk. The Fire Grants and Safety Act would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The grant programs, set to expire in the coming years, provide hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance to rural fire companies across the country annually. The bill reauthorizes $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current authorized levels – and would extend the authorization for all three programs until 2028. Without passage of this bill, AFG and SAFER will expire on September 30.

Firefighters extinguished a fire in an abandoned vehicle on E. Chestnut Hill Rd., near the athletic campus of the University of Delaware On Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Newark, DE. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

The SAFER program provides federal grants to career and volunteer local fire departments to hire more firefighters and attain 24-hour staffing to protect local communities from fire hazards. The AFG program provides federal grants to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. The USFA is the primary representative of fire and emergency services in the federal government and provides fire research, public safety education, and data collection to help train departments across the nation.

The Fire Grants and Safety Act is endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the Congressional Fire Service Institute, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.

Congress established the AFG grant program in 2000, providing vital funding for career, combination, and volunteer departments. Congress then authorized the SAFER program in 2003 to address staffing shortages in career, combination, and volunteer departments across the nation.