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SAFER Grants Deadline Extended Into 2010

SAFER Grants Deadline Extended Into 2010

International Association of Fire Fighters

Working closely with the IAFF to streamline the application process and ensure that as many jurisdictions as possible are eligible and actually apply for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has extended the FY 2009 grant application period to January 15, 2010. As a result of the extension, peer panel reviews will take place in February 2010.

Program guidance and applications for SAFER funding are available through the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) web site.

FEMA has also provided additional guidance on a specific issue of concern among many jurisdictions. Some municipalities that want to use SAFER grants to bring back laid-off fire fighters or restore cuts in service have been reluctant to apply because of fears that if the economy takes another turn for the worse and they are unable to maintain staffing levels, they would have to reimburse FEMA for the value of the grant. Essentially, these jurisdictions are averse to taking a financial risk.

The guidance from FEMA addresses this concern and eliminates the financial risk. If a jurisdiction receives a SAFER grant to bring back fire fighters who have been laid off or to restore positions that have been lost through attrition, but subsequently during the grant period loses fire fighters through retirement and determines it cannot afford to fill those vacancies, that jurisdiction will not be required to reimburse FEMA for the SAFER grant. For example, a big city fire department with a complement of 1,500 fire fighters on December 20, 2007, that laid off 30 fire fighters as a result of the economic downturn, successfully applies for a SAFER grant to restore those positions, restoring staffing to 1,500. The SAFER grant provides 100 percent of the salary and fringe for each position as described in the fire department’s budget. The city’s salary and fringe totaled $100,000 per position (30 x $100,000 = $3,000,000).

During the second year of the grant, 10 fire fighters retire and the city cannot afford to replace the positions, and the complement is reduced to 1,490. The city will not be required to re-pay FEMA for the reduction in force. However, FEMA will downwardly adjust the SAFER grant. In this case, in the second year as a result of 10 positions being lost, FEMA would provide funding for 20 positions, not 30.

The new guidance also allows jurisdictions that have vacated fire fighter positions during the grant period that are unable to fill those vacant positions due to further economic hardship to petition DHS for a waiver. If the waiver is granted, the jurisdiction would maintain all the positions that were awarded in the grant. The waiver would only apply to positions lost through attrition — not to further layoffs. In the absence of a waiver, the policies stated in the new guidance addressed above would still apply.

Additionally, it removes the requirement to maintain the positions past the period of performance for awards made to rehire vacated or laid-off fire fighters.

Applicants that have already submitted applications can amend the application given this new policy guidance and extended application period. Contact the Assistance to Firefighters Help Desk at 1-866-274-0960.

As the IAFF has worked hard to ensure greater access and eligibility to SAFER grants and to increase the total amount of money available, DHS and FEMA have been true partners, recognizing the devastating affect that the country’s economic condition is having on local governments and, by extension, the fire service and IAFF members.

The IAFF encourages affiliates to share this guidance with their fire departments and take advantage of the opportunity to apply for risk-free SAFER grants.

For additional information or assistance, contact Jennifer Stewart at (202) 824-8631 or jstewart@iaff.org.


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