How Will the Sequester Affect the IAFF and Members?
February 28, 2013 – As the federal government continues to
debate sequestration, below is information (FAQs) about how the sequester could
affect the IAFF and affiliates at the federal, state and local level. The IAFF
will continue to provide updates by email and on the web site as more
information about the effects of the sequester is available.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Sequester
Q: What is sequestration?
A: Sequestration refers to $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts due
to go into effect over the next 10 years, including $85 billion in cuts over the
next seven months (the remainder of this fiscal year). Sequestration was
included as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which reduced spending and
increased the debt limit. The original purpose was to create a system of
automatic budget cuts that would be so painful that Congress would be compelled
to come up with an alternate plan to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, Congress
has repeatedly failed to reach an agreement on an alternative, so the sequester
is now scheduled to take effect on March 1.
Q: What does sequestration mean for SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S awards that have
already been made?
A: Current grants will be unaffected by sequestration. Affiliates with
active, awarded Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER),
Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S)
awards should continue to spend the dollars for the purposes for which they were
Q: What does sequestration mean for Fiscal Year 2013 SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S
A: For Fiscal Year 2013, sequestration requires automatic, across-the-board
cuts to the majority of federal programs, projects and activities, including
SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S grants. Should sequestration occur, funding for SAFER,
FIRE Act and FP&S grants will be reduced. Less money will be available to make
grants, resulting in fewer and smaller grants awarded. It is also possible that
the application period for all three grants currently scheduled for later this
year will be delayed.
Q: I have a SAFER award from Fiscal Year 2011 or earlier and was depending on
Fiscal Year 2013 SAFER money to keep our fire fighters on board. What do we do?
A: SAFER awards made from 2009-2011 for retention or layoffs do not require
awardees to maintain staffing levels beyond the original period of performance.
However, because the application period for Fiscal Year 2013 funding
opportunities may not be available before you reach the end of your period of
performance, affiliates should work diligently to ensure alternative funding can
be secured to maintain staffing levels. SAFER awards made from 2009-2010 for new
hires are required to commit to retaining the newly hired SAFER-funded fire
fighters for one full year after the two-year period of performance. SAFER
awards made for new hires in 2011 have no commitment to retain the newly hired
SAFER-funded fire fighters after the two-year period of performance.
Q: I have a Fiscal Year 2012 SAFER award. Will I still be able to retain or
hire fire fighters?
A: Yes. Sequestration will have no impact on current grants.
Q: What does sequestration mean for future years of funding, beyond Fiscal
A: Although sequestration imposes spending limits for Fiscal Years 2014 –
2021, unlike Fiscal Year 2013, cuts will NOT be automatic and across-the-board.
Although sequestration may impact grant funding in future years, Congress and
the administration may choose to cut alternate programs, projects and
Q: What else does this mean for me and our current SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S
A: Due to Budget cuts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may
have a reduction in staff, making it difficult to reach someone for assistance
on your grant. Be sure to familiarize yourself with FEMA’s web site and FAQs
listed there. FEMA may have to delay any application periods for new money. FEMA
also may experience the inability to monitor your awards, so be sure you abide
by the terms and conditions of the award so you don’t have any audit findings or
have to repay money to FEMA.
Q: Can sequestration affect any direct grants to the IAFF?
A: The IAFF receives federal grant dollars that fund numerous programs and
projects, including HazMat/WMD training, the Fire Fighter Safety and Deployment
Study in partnership with the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST)
and the IAFF Wellness and Fitness Initiative (WFI). While existing grant awards
will not be affected, future grant dollars could be significantly delayed,
reduced or eliminated.
Q: What if sequestration does not occur?
A: Although it is unlikely that Congress will reach an agreement to delay or
replace the sequester before March 1, it may include more targeted spending cuts
in the appropriation bill it needs to pass by March 27 to keep the government
operating. These more targeted cuts could replace some or all of the cuts made
by the sequester. If this occurs, FEMA would be able to open the SAFER
application period in mid- to late-April. Without a doubt, the federal budget
will be greatly reduced either through sequestration or other agreed-on changes.
If the latter occurs, we will be fighting to keep fire fighters from being
forced into the Social Security system and protecting health insurance and
pension benefits from federal taxation.
Q: How can I help my department receive funding if the sequester takes
A: Continue to spend any existing money diligently. Continue to talk with
your congressional delegations about the importance of SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S
funding. And continue to apply for available grants, regardless of the amount of
funding available. In addition, be sure to apply and reach out to the IAFF
Department of Grants Administration at (202) 824-1557 for assistance with
Q: What other federal programs will be impacted by the sequester?
A: The sequester will impose cuts on almost all federal government programs
with a few notable exceptions. Of particular concern to fire fighters, Medicare
and Medicaid reimbursement rates will not be affected, and federal fire fighter
pay rates and benefits will not be reduced by the sequester. But, if furloughed,
federal fire fighters would not be paid for those days. If layoffs occur at the
Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice programs, families of IAFF members
killed in the line of duty may experience delays in receiving PSOB benefits. A
number of other programs that benefit fire fighters could lose funding,
including the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (World Trade Center
health program), funding for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, and much of
the funding for wildland fire fighting. The IAFF will continue working to
protect funding for these programs, and will keep locals apprised as more
information becomes available.
Q: Will federal fire fighters be furloughed as a result of a sequester?
A: The federal government has announced that a furlough of 22 work days for
Department of Defense employees will take place between April and September of
2013. At this time, it’s unclear how the furloughs will apply to fire fighters,
as the agencies are not sending consistent information regarding the maintenance
of emergency services at federal facilities. Some agencies have recognized the
need to prioritize funding that is available and maintain emergency services,
and others have not.