Fire Service Grants
(from Maine Townsman, January 2001)
by Kirsten Hebert, Legislative Advocate, MMA

On December 15, 2000, Congress appropriated $100 million to fund the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement Act. The bill authorizes appropriations of $100 million for FY 2001 and $300 million for FY 2002. This year's appropriation must be used prior to the end of the current federal fiscal year, September 30, 2001.

According to Ken Burris, chief operating officer for the United States Fire Administration, the program is currently organized according to the language of the authorization bill. Under that bill, the Director of FEMA is given the authority to administer the program.

There will be a delay in the implementation of the program. The appropriations must be placed in the Federal Register for a period of 30-60 days. With this schedule, it may be summer before FEMA is prepared to receive applications. In order to beat the September 30, 2001 deadline, Burris recommends interested fire service officials read the authorizing language of the bill to determine their department's eligibility.

Competitive grants will be issued directly to the individual local fire departments. Volunteer fire departments as well as paid or career departments are eligible for a federal grant. The bill authorizes grant writing assistance for those departments unfamiliar with the application process.

The Director of FEMA has the authority to develop the criteria necessary to issue grants. The grant process requires all departments to complete an application and provide a breakdown of the grant request. According to the language of the bill, funds may be used for recruiting new personnel, vehicles, education programs, and new equipment. However, not more than 25% of the grant may be allocated for the purchase of additional firefighting vehicles. In order to receive a grant, departments must submit both a certificate of need and a benefit-risk analysis. The maximum amount a grant recipient may receive for any fiscal year is $750,000.

Grants will be awarded on a matching basis. The determining factor is that of population. Departments servicing a population of more than 50,000 must provide a 30% non-federal match. Smaller departments servicing a population of less than 50,000 will be required to provide a 10% non-federal match. 

The language of the FIRE bill can be found under either H.R. 1168 or S. 1941. Interested departments should read the authorizing language in order to prepare an application in time to meet the September 30, 2001 deadline. 

A copy of the legislation is available from MMA. Contact Laura Veilleux at 1-800-452-8786 or visit MMA's web site (www.memun.org).