Funding for Assistance to Firefighters Grant (FIRE Act) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs could suffer if Congress fails to avoid the automatic spending cuts set to take effect on March 1.

The cuts would be implemented as across-the-board percentage reductions from FY 2013 appropriations. Congress has not passed a 2013 appropriations bill, so it is hard to predict what spending levels would be if cuts do go into effect.

President Obama urged Congress to avoid the automatic spending cuts that would hurt public workers and the middle class.

“These cuts are not smart and they are not fair,” President Obama said in a press conference surrounded by IAFF members and other first responders. “People will lose their jobs – this is not an abstraction. It is wrong to ask the middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction.”

At minimum, the president has urged Congress to pass a small plan that will help give lawmakers more time to solve the issue of deficit reduction.

“Are they willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their jobs because they want to protect special interests and tax loopholes that a vast majority of Americans don’t benefit?”

The SAFER program is one of the most effective federal programs to assist fire departments in local communities have sufficient personnel, equipment and training to operate safely and efficiently.

This year, $335 million in SAFER grant money is available. As the economy slowly stabilizes, more fire departments have announced new hires, thanks in part to the federal funding.

The IAFF will continue to work with its allies in Congress to maintain the proper funding levels for the fire service and that other resources are invested in our emergency responders.