This week has been a busy one in terms of long-awaited news on the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
I have spoken to locals in multiple states – including Michigan and New York – that were contacted by FEMA budget staff regarding banking and direct deposit information. I checked in with the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant office this morning and confirmed that awards are expected any day now.
Even without any new awards on the street, a number of IAFF locals have called in because their cities are preemptively refusing grants unless concessions are made by the local. Clinton Township, Michigan, is a good example of this – we will likely see Michigan continue to be one of our hotspots.
Neighboring Flint, which received a large grant in 2009, was turned down by FEMA for a waiver to layoff additional fire fighters, which is essentially the only restriction left on these grants. Mayors in Michigan, supported by a newly elected Republican governor and legislature, are warning other cities not to accept the grants so as to prevent having their hands tied on future layoffs.
Unfortunately public sentiment is also not in the fire fighter’s favor. With some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, those without jobs and looking to make public workers suffer the way they are.