Significant funding and benefits for fire fighters and emergency medical personnel are included in the American Recovery and Rescue Act, HR 1319, which passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 50-49 on March 6. The IAFF worked diligently to ensure the bill provides the following:
- $200 million in supplemental funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program to retain fire fighters at risk of layoff and rehire laid off fire fighters.
- $100 million in supplemental funding for the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program.
- $195.3 billion in funding to states and $130.2 billion to cities and counties to address a variety of needs, including budgetary shortfalls for fire departments and other government services and premium pay for essential workers:
- $60.1 billion to counties
- $45.57 billion for cities of 50,000 or more
- $19.53 billion for cities of less than 50,000
- Authorizes Medicare to reimburse ground ambulance providers and suppliers for Treatment in Place (TIP) without transport for the duration of the public health emergency when community EMS protocols dictate the patient not be transported to a medical facility.
- Provides $80 million to state and local governments and other entities for training to address suicide, burnout and behavioral health conditions, including substance abuse among public safety officers and healthcare professionals.
- Provides an additional $50 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to reimburse fire departments and other government entities for COVID-related activities and purchases at 100%.
- Establishes a COVID-19 presumption under federal workers’ compensation to ensure federal fire fighters who become ill from COVID-19 receive necessary benefits.
- Guarantees paid emergency leave for civilian federal employees, including federal fire fighters who must quarantine or are ill, or to care for family members, including children who participate in remote learning during COVID.
Affiliate leaders should be prepared to ensure members benefit from the newly available funds. Unlike previously allocated funding under the CARES Act, state and local funding will be limited to funding government services that were reduced due to revenue reductions resulting from the pandemic. The U.S. Treasury will release guidance on eligible uses, but affiliate leaders should identify any departmental budget cuts incurred or pending, and approach their mayors or governors about receiving a portion of these funds to address these cuts.
Additional dollars allocated though the Disaster Relief Fund continue to be available to reimburse fire departments for costs related to the pandemic through the Public Assistance Grant Program. These expenses, previously reimbursable at 75%, are now reimbursable in full due to an executive order signed by President Biden last month.
Further guidance on how locals can access the supplemental SAFER and AFG funding, TIP reimbursement and mental health dollars is forthcoming, and the IAFF will update affiliate leaders when it becomes available.
The bill, which originally passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February, was significantly improved in the Senate by the addition of provisions that fund SAFER and AFG and the TIP authorization. The IAFF worked closely with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to include the SAFER and AFG funding and with Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV) to include the TIP authorization.
The bill will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a final vote on Tuesday, March 9 before it is signed into law by President Biden.