By Dave Gatton
One of the long-lasting changes brought about by COVID 19 is the opportunity to conduct meetings via Zoom. The 2021 FAMA/FEMSA GAC Hill Day was no exception. During the week of May 18th, over 60 virtual meetings were held with key members of Congress, their lead staff, and committee appropriations staffers responsible for developing legislation to determine funding levels for FAMA/FEMSA priority programs.
The GAC Chairs and the Presidents of both FAMA and FEMSA met with key staff from the offices of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (CT), chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Senator Patrick Murphy (CT), chair of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee; Senator Richard Shelby (AL), ranking member of the Senator Appropriations Committee; and Shelley Moore Captio, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
The efforts, as usual, were productive. FAMA/FEMSA members presented the congressional offices with reports on how their states and/or congressional districts benefited from the Assistance to Fire Grants (AFG) program, listing every grant received over the last four years. In addition, the offices received the updated “10 Key Facts of the Fire Service” along with the FAMA/FEMSA jobs map showing aggregate employment levels, by state, of the fire industry. It all added up to a comprehensive briefing for the offices.
Over the years the Hill Days have worked. As of this writing, the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee has marked up its FY 2022 appropriations bill, providing $370 million each for AFG and SAFER. This is a $20 million increase for the combined programs, double the annual increase of the last several years.
While the Fire Service Coalition has asked for full authorized funding of the AFG and SAFER programs ($750 million each), it is an encouraging sign that Congress has started the legislative process with a larger funding level. The GAC will keep FAMA and FEMSA members informed as the legislation unfolds over the summer.
In the meantime, it is very important that FAMA and FEMSA members continue to push for full funding levels as you meet with your congressional offices over the summer and fall. We encourage you to conduct Home Days by reaching out to the district offices of your congressional delegations and establishing relationships with them. The updated 2021 Home Day Toolkit is now available on the GAC website and includes easy-to-follow resource materials to make your events highly successful. Please take the opportunity to pass them along, virtually or over a cup of coffee.
Next year we hope to reconvene in Washington, D.C. to resume our ‘in person” Hill Days, but what we have learned during the last year, is that we can continually keep in touch with congressional offices throughout the year. We hope you take advantage of this new capability.
Virtual or in person, the FAMA / FEMSA GAC Hill and Home Days remain key to our efforts to secure more funding and support for the Fire Service.