Chantilly, Va. – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) today said it will take heroism in Congress to save fire and EMS in communities across the country.
Legal and regulatory minutiae prevent CARES Act money from immediately helping firefighters protect their communities and themselves during the current COVID-19 crisis. IAFC President Gary Ludwig says it’s clear only Congress can expedite the money by clearing regulatory logjams within the Assistance for Firefighter Grant Program (AFG).
“Firefighters need a hero,” Ludwig said. “So do the people they serve. It’s up to Congress to fill that role by solving two crucial COVID-19 problems. One is a classic Washington logjam and the other is ensuring enough money to keep fire/EMS stations open around the country.
“Our brothers and sisters in law enforcement are already putting to work some of their much needed $850 million from the March CARES Act,” Ludwig said. “At the same time, a significantly smaller pool of money for firefighters to battle COVID-19 is still stuck in Washington. That $100 million isn’t available to fire departments and likely won’t be for another month or two. Only Congress can fix this.”
In addition, Chief Ludwig says the $100 million is not nearly enough to prevent furloughs, layoffs and firehouse closings. Significant cuts to fire and EMS are already on the table in many communities — in the middle of the pandemic. Layoffs are occurring while firefighters are still caring for coronavirus patients. This is because COVID-19 continues to attack fire department budgets.
“The pandemic is forcing fire departments to pay for more personal protective equipment, decontamination supplies and additional overtime to cover shifts of ill and quarantined firefighters,” Ludwig said. “Stay at home orders mean less tax money to run fire departments. They also stop fundraising activities by volunteer firefighters.
The IAFC has asked Congress to get money directly to local fire departments by dramatically increasing funding of both the AFG and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs. Seventy-five billion dollars was allocated to hospitals in the most recent stimulus bill. It’s equally important to provide significant funds to pre-hospital care for COVID-19 victims and to keep our fire/EMS stations open. That’s why Chief Ludwig asked Congress to provide $5 billion each to AFG and SAFER.
Congress must step into the hero role quickly.
“If Congress does not act, there will soon be fewer heroes on the front lines protecting our communities,” Ludwig said.
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more