Communities applying for federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants will not have any out of pocket or cost share expenses this year, the Department of Homeland Security announced today.
The guidelines for the 2010 Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) annual SAFER grant program were released today and the application period will run from Nov. 16 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, December 18.
Three significant differences have been implemented for the 2010 awards, all of which were made possible because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), according to the DHS.
The biggest change is there is no prescribed cost-share for recipients. In years past, communities awarded were expected to provide a percentage of the cost of the new hires.
Other significant changes outlined in the 54-page guidelines document include: a provision that says there are no annual salary limits for employees; a provision that says grantees that hire laid off firefighters do not have to commit to retaining the SAFER-funded firefighters; and a change in the provision regarding the period of performance which has been reduced for hiring grants from four years to two years.
The guidelines indicate the DHS will distinguish between grants to hire new firefighters and grants to rehire laid-off firefighters. Grants to hire new firefighters have a two-year period of performance and require grantees to commit to retaining SAFER-funded firefighters for one full year after the end of the period of performance, according to the guidelines. Federal funds may be used to pay for 100 percent of the actual salary and benefit costs of the newly hired firefighters without a local cost share, according to the guidelines.
Grants to rehire laid off firefighters also have a two-year period of performance, but no requirement to retain the firefighters beyond the period of performance. And, like with new hires, federal funds may be used to pay for 100 percent of the actual salary and benefit costs of rehiring firefighters with no requirement for local cost share.
According to the guidelines, grant priorities remain largely unchanged from previous year's grants. They continue to focus on staffing standard established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In Fiscal Year 2009, Congress appropriated $210 million to the DHS for the SAFER Grant program and the appropriated funds are available for awards until Sept. 30, 2010.
SAFER Grants are managed by FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Program Office. The grants are designed to provide financial assistance to help fire departments increase their cadre of frontline firefighters or to rehire firefighters who have been laid off.
The goal is to assist local fire departments with staffing and deployment capabilities so they may respond to emergencies, assuring communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.
SAFER Grants support two activities to support the goal, hiring of career firefighters and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.
According to the guidelines, SAFER Grants are an important part of the Administration's larger, coordinated effort to strengthen homeland security preparedness. The National Preparedness Guidelines are designed to meet the nation's four core preparedness objectives: prevent; protect against; respond to; and recover from terrorists' attacks and catastrophic natural disasters.
"First Responder participation is integral to the guidelines' success," the document reads. "DHS expects its First Responder partners to be familiar with this national preparedness architecture and to practically incorporate elements of this architecture into their planning, operations and investments."