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June 23, 2024
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Funding for Fire Service in Stimulus Bill
Updated On: Dec 01, 2009

Funding for Fire Service in Stimulus Bill
Key Provisions Provide Aid to Struggling Communities

February 13, 2009 – Congressional leaders and the Obama administration have agreed on a compromise economic stimulus package that will provide more than $200 billion to states and localities facing budget shortfalls. This critically needed funding will help alleviate the pressure on fire department budgets in communities across the nation. The legislation is expected to pass Congress this week, and be quickly signed into law by President Obama.

Several items championed by the IAFF are included in the final compromise agreement. Most notably, nearly $8.8 billion was provided to states to address “high priority needs, such as public safety and other critical services….” Other items benefiting the fire service include $210 million for fire station construction and a waiver of the matching requirements for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants.

“We applaud Congress and the Obama administration for their swift response to the economic crisis facing fire departments across America,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “This funding will provide immediate aid to struggling communities, but even more importantly, it will be critical to helping jumpstart our ailing economy.”

The $8.8 billion available to public safety agencies is part of a $54 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that was originally created to support local school systems. The IAFF led the effort to expand the funding to assist local public safety services. The funding will be distributed to states based a population formula, and governors will then be empowered allocate the dollars to local communities.

The IAFF developed the proposal for fire station construction with two purposes in mind. By improving fire stations, the fund will protect the health and safety of fire fighters and enhance emergency response capabilities. And it will create thousands of good paying construction jobs that will help boost the local economy.

The SAFER waiver language was added to help communities that need to hire additional fire fighters but are unable to do so because of the current economic downturn. Under the provision, communities will not have to provide matching funds for grants issued in the next two years.

In addition to fire fighter-specific programs, the IAFF also supported a number of provisions that will aid all middle-income Americans. An immediate tax cut of $800 for families earning less than $200,000, an expansion of the child tax credit, relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and college tuition assistance are some of the dozens of provisions that will also benefit the nation’s professional fire fighters.

IAFF members who have been laid off will also be eligible for expanded health care coverage and extended unemployment insurance.

“The Obama administration and congressional leadership fully understand the dire situation our members – and all working Americans – are facing,” Schaitberger notes. “This is an ambitious and comprehensive approach to an unprecedented crisis.”

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