Recently, President Trump released his Fiscal Year 2020 budget that will be taken up by Congress in the upcoming months. In it, the President proposed reductions in the two major fire service grants: the Aid to Firefighters Grant (AFG) for equipment, and Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) for staffing. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. The fire service has seen proposed cuts to the AFG/SAFER/USAR budgets from each President since George W. Bush.
That is why every spring, the fire service descends upon Washington DC. As part of the Congressional Fire Service Institute program in Washington DC, firefighters from across the country, from both paid and volunteer ranks, come down. In addition to attending lectures and seminars, they also walk the Halls of Congress to meet with Legislators and their staffs to explain why funding needs to increase or at the very least stay at the current levels. In addition, organizations that service the fire service, like Fire & Safety Services, also go down to support the fire service and to show the economic impact that our part also plays.
The various fire service organizations (IAFF, VCOS, etc) and trade organization groups (FEMSA and FAMA), work together during the year to craft a comprehensive message so that all groups are presenting a common voice and unified message. The fire service is blessed with strong bipartisan support (the Congressional Fire Caucus is one of the largest bipartisan congressional caucuses in existence). Through their support, we have been very successful in maintaining level funding for the last several years, after a reduction in funding during the 2008 recession era.
But even if you can’t make it to DC, your voice is needed – Write your Federal Representative and Senators to ask them to fully fund AFG and SAFER. It is of more importance this year than ever for NJ to reach out to their representatives since we have five (5) new first term representatives who have never dealt with this issue before.