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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 awarded.

Q: What does sequestration mean for Fiscal Year 2013 SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S grants?
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?
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?
Yes. Sequestration will have no impact on current grants.

Q: What does sequestration mean for future years of funding, beyond Fiscal Year 2013?
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 activities.

Q: What else does this mean for me and our current SAFER, FIRE Act and FP&S awards?
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?
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?
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 effect?
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 applications.

Q: What other federal programs will be impacted by the sequester?
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?
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.


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