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Ultimate Guide to SAFER Grants

Ultimate Guide to SAFER Grants

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Allowable Expenses

There are a number of ways to use SAFER grant money. Here are a few examples:

  • • Insurance packages such as accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D), disability, health, dental, life, etc.
  • • Reimbursement to the member for attending required basic training, i.e., compensation for lost wages, mileage, lodging, per diem.
  • • Marketing costs to recruit new volunteer members.
  • • Physicals may be eligible if the applicant can adequately demonstrate that the provision of the physicals would enhance the applicant’s ability to recruit and/or retain volunteer firefighters.
  • • Explorer, cadet, and/or mentoring programs.
  • • Staffing needs assessment.
  • • Tuition assistance for higher education (including college tuition) and professional certifications. Note: Coursework or certifications in this category should be above and beyond what the department typically funds for required minimum-staffing firefighter certification.
  • • Length of service awards and other retirement benefits.

Ineligible Expenses

  • • Cash awards for participation in activities other than those directly linked to operational services (responding to incidents, attending training, providing operational stand-by services).
  • • Reimbursement for or payment for travel for pleasure.
  • • Reimbursement for costs associated with award banquets (reimbursement for actual awards, i.e., plaques, trophies, is eligible).
  • • Personal protective clothing.
  • • Firefighting equipment.
  • • Costs for training that are regularly paid for within the department’s normal operating funding, such as tuition or instructor fees for department-mandated basic-level training.
  • • Costs incurred prior to award.

Available Funding and Eligible Applicants

Congress appropriated a total of $190 million for the FY 2008 SAFER program. Funds are to be administered as indicated below.

  • • Ten percent (10%) of the appropriated amount must be for grants awarded under the Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters Activity.
  • • Ten percent (10%) of the appropriated amount must be for grants awarded to volunteer or mostly volunteer departments for Hiring of Firefighters Activity.
  • • Recipients of grants in the Hiring of Firefighters Activity must commit to a five-year period of performance during which the Federal contribution toward the costs of the salaries will diminish over the course of the performance period.
  • • For the 2008 program year, the Federal share of salaries and associated benefits is limited to a total of $108,380 per position over the course of the performance period (this figure is based on last year’s limit of $105,425 and adjusted for 2007 inflation at a rounded rate of 2.8%1).
  • • There is no funding request limit for any application or any limit to the number of positions eligible for funding per application. However, applicants requesting large numbers of firefighters must make a strong case for their request.
  • • There is no local match requirement and no maximum Federal share limit under the Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters Activity.
  • DHS will also limit the Federal share in each of the years of the grant. Based on a total funding cap of $108,380 over five years, the allocated amount of Federal funds that Hiring of Firefighters Activity grantees should budget for under SAFER for salary and benefits for newly hired firefighters should not exceed the lesser of the following:

  • Year One: 90 percent of the actual costs or $39,015
  • Year Two: 80 percent of the actual costs or $34,675
  • Year Three: 50 percent of the actual costs or $21,670
  • Year Four: 30 percent of the actual costs or $13,020
  • Year Five: No Federal share – all costs funded by grantee

There is no maximum award amount. However, DHS has found that applicants have found it more difficult to justify larger requests than smaller ones.

After completing the evaluation process, applications will be ranked on a competitive basis and awards will be made using rank order as the primary basis of the decision, regardless of the type of SAFER grant being awarded. However, there are some exceptions to this process.

The law requires that DHS set aside 10 percent of the available funding for hiring firefighters for volunteer and mostly volunteer fire departments. For the purpose of fulfilling this statutory requirement, DHS will consider a department to be “mostly volunteer” if 50 percent or more of its membership is made up of personnel who do not receive financial compensation for their services, other than life, health, and worker’s compensation insurance, or a stipend payment such as paid-on-call. In order to satisfy this statutory requirement, it may be necessary to go out of rank order to select a sufficient number of applicants in order to meet the 10 percent requirement.

If less than 10 percent of these available funds are awarded to volunteer and mostly volunteer fire departments, the remaining funds must be transferred to the component of SAFER that provides grants for the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

Regardless of the merit of an application, applicants are reminded that grants will not be awarded to a municipality or other recipient whose annual budget has been reduced below 80 percent of the average annual funding in the three years prior to the date of application.