According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the American Recovery and Rescue Act being voted on in Congress this week contains significant funding for fire and emergency medical personnel.
The act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in late February and passed the U.S. Senate last week by a vote of 50 to 49. The bill now goes back to the House, where it is expected to be passed on Tuesday, March 9. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill later this week.
IAFF said the bill contains more than $380 million in funding for fire and EMS related expenses, including $200 million in supplemental funding for “Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants to retain and rehire firefighters, $100 million in supplemental funding for the “Assistance to Firefighters” grant program, and $80 million to state and local governments to address suicide, burnout and behavioral health for public safety officers and healthcare professionals.
The bill also includes $195.3 billion in funding for states and $120.2 billion to cities and counties to address a wide range of issues, including budget shortfall for fire departments and other government services, and an additional $50 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to reimburse at 100 percent any activities and purchases made by fire departments and other governmental entities related to Covid-19.
“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 group said.
The bill would also establish that federal firefighters who come down with COVID-19 would be presumed to have gotten it on the job and be covered by federal workers’ compensation insurance, and would guarantee paid emergency leave for federal firefighters who have to quarantine or are ill or have to care for family members.