In a last ditch effort to hire back it’s 15 laid-off firefighters and re-open the three closed stations, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) applied for a SAFER Grant from FEMA. I received word over the weekend the District did not receive the grant.
This morning, Chief Hugh Henderson confirmed the bad news as the grant was written to get all six fire stations fully staffed with three personnel on duty.
The district applied for the grant in February and would have ultimately increased the staffing level from 9 firefighters on duty to 18
According to the Chief, he was told by FEMA that ECCFPD was competing with over 1,900 other applicants that had applied and the competition was very high. The 2012/2013 safer grant cycle opened last Monday and the District will be for preparing to reapply during the new grant round.
“My hopes with our current reduction in staffing and station closures that we will be high on FEMA’s priority list for the next go-round of grants,” stated Chief Henderson.
While I understand that this grant would have provided immediate benefits to the District, there were a lot of caveats with the biggest being during the grant period, the District cannot reduce the workforce of firefighters as it provides funds to pay for firefighter positions, but the District must pay for all equipment and training—I believe the District also has 90-days to hire from time the Grant is awarded.
I am torn because I want our firefighters back, but this could have created a more long term problems as clearly the District has a revenue problem. When the grant expires, we would have been right back where we are today because the revenue problem will not have been solved. It also would have meant a problem on the next layoff go around in the future for our firefighters with seniority!
In this situation, the District is pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don’t. With that said, we need the bodies on duty!
According to the 62-page Program Guide, here are some interesting facts on this grant:
- Application Start Date: 7/16/12 (8:00 a.m. EDT)
- Application Submission Date: 8/10/12 (5:00 p.m. EDT)
Career Fire Departments may apply for funding in the following category:
- Hiring of New Firefighters Activity
- Rehiring of Firefighters
Hierarchy of Priorities
- First priority: Rehiring laid-off firefighters
- Second priorities: Retention of firefighters who face imminent layoff and/or filling positions vacated through attrition but not filled due to economic circumstances
- Third priority: Hiring new firefighters The exceptions to these priorities are the requirements that no less than 15 percent of available funds be awarded to new hire applicants as discussed in the Hiring of New Firefighters Activity (See Part IV. Funding Restrictions), and the statutory requirement to award no less than 10 percent of available funds to volunteer and mostly volunteer departments.
The only eligible costs under the Hiring of Firefighters Category for new or rehired firefighters activity are the following:
- Associated benefits (actual payroll expenses)
SAFER Funding will pay for the total salary and benefit costs for each funded position.
- Firefighters that are employees at time of and/or hired prior to the award date, except if applying under the retention activity, are not eligible under the Hiring of Firefighters Category.
- Overtime costs are not eligible. However, costs for overtime fire departments routinely pay as a part of the base salary or the firefighter’s regularly scheduled and contracted shift hours are eligible in order to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Federal employees are prohibited from serving in any capacity (paid or unpaid) on any proposal submitted for this grant opportunity. Federal employees may not receive funds under this award.
- Only full-time positions will be funded. A full-time position is one position that is funded for at least 2,080 hours per year, i.e., 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. However, recognizing many departments have shifts exceeding a 40-hour workweek, FEMA also will consider funding the job-sharing of a full-time position if the grantee has sufficient justification. A job-share position is a full-time position occupied by more than one person.
- Pre-application costs, such as grant writer fees, administrative costs, and indirect costs associated with hiring of firefighters
- Costs for training and equipping firefighters (however, the salaries and benefits of firefighters hired under the SAFER Grants while they are engaged in training are eligible.)
- Costs for uniforms and physicals • Funds to support additional hired positions or funds received from federal, state, or local sources cannot be used to supplant normal operating budgets unless a waiver has been granted.
Volunteer and mostly volunteer fire departments may hire individuals to fill officer-level positions such as chief, fire inspector, training officer, safety officer, etc. However, since the purpose of SAFER Grants is to enhance incident scene safety, all applicants must certify the primary assignment of all SAFER-funded firefighters will be an operational assignment (e.g., fire suppression) regardless of collateral duties.
Recruitment & Retention Category
Applicants who propose to initiate a recruitment and retention plan as a part of their application receive equal consideration. Proposals for this category may include providing incentives for volunteer firefighter members to continue service in a fire department.
Examples of initiatives that may receive funding include, but are not limited to:
- Insurance packages such as accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D), disability, health, dental, life
- Reimbursement to the member while attending required basic training (e.g., compensation for lost wages, mileage, lodging, per diem)
- Marketing costs to recruit new volunteer members
- Station internet access
- Computers in common areas
- LED/electronic signs (note: 75 percent of usage must be dedicated to Recruitment & Retention Activities – additional restrictions apply; see Appendix I, Part III, Section B, Other Allowable Costs’)
- Station duty uniforms for new recruits (pants, shirts, hats)
- Non-uniform clothing (t-shirts, jackets, pullovers, etc.) when as part of an award program
- Station modifications (e.g., converting space into bunkroom – restrictions apply; see the Environmental Historic Preservation (EHP) section under Appendix I, Part III, Section B, Other Allowable Costs’)
- Salary and benefits for a recruitment and retention coordinator
- Physicals (consistent with NFPA 1582) for new recruits only
- Explorer, cadet, and mentoring programs (See “Appendix I, Part III, Section B, Other Allowable Costs” for additional information on these programs)
- Staffing needs assessment
- Administrative costs up to 3 percent of the awarded amount
- Tuition assistance for higher education (including college tuition and not limited to firefighter training or education) and professional certifications (Note: Coursework or certifications in this category should be above and beyond what the department typically funds for required minimum-staffing firefighter certification. Books and lab fees are eligible, but computers are not)
- Costs for training not regularly covered under the department’s operating budget
- Awards Program for participation in operational activities (e.g., length of service plaques, gift cards, non-uniform clothing, etc. for responding to incidents, attending operational training – however, payments may not be retroactive for service prior to award)
- Establish a new Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAP) (funding of existing programs or retroactive payments are not eligible)
- Mileage reimbursement for operational activities (e.g., responding to incidents, attending training)
- Turnout gear after the new recruit undergoes a physical
- With proper justification, applications for funding in the Recruitment & Retention Activity could include activities requiring up to four years to complete
- For each activity requested, the applicant must establish the link between the activities for which funding is being requested and the identified recruitment and/or retention problems or issues to be addressed. FEMA will not fund activities without the applicant having made a sufficient correlation between the activity and its positive effect on the recruitment and/or retention of volunteer firefighters
- All funded activities under Recruitment & Retention must be governed by formally adopted standard operating procedures (SOPs). Minimally, these SOPs should specify who qualifies for each of the incentives, specific requirements for earning the incentives, and the disposition of the awarded incentives if an individual fails to fulfill the stipulations
- The limited funding available for SAFER Activities precludes the award of funding for operational activities, such as the purchase of firefighting equipment and vehicles. Personal protective clothing may be funded for newly recruited firefighters, but personal protective equipment for other types of members or existing members is not eligible
- Costs incurred prior to award
- Fire suppression equipment/vehicles
- Communication equipment including portable radios or computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems
- Payments or recognition for service prior to award (i.e., no retroactive payments)
- Cash payments for non-operational activities
- Payments for travel to and/ or participation in leisure activities such as theatre tickets, entertainment tickets and trips (professional ball games, etc.)
- Costs associated with award banquets, such as food, refreshments, entertainment, or rental facilities. Reimbursement for actual awards (e.g., plaques, and trophies) is eligible
- Costs for training regularly covered under the department’s operating budget, such as tuition or instructor fees for department-mandated, basic-level training
- Services at a member’s personal residence (e.g., internet access, plowing of driveways, etc.)
- Furniture, TVs, fixtures, appliances (refrigerators, etc.), entertainment equipment (Exception: furniture for newly converted bunkrooms is eligible)
- “Giveaways” such as pencils, pens, t-shirts, cups, mugs, balloons, etc. for recruitment events •
- Fees for courses and training that are also available free of charge on the internet or at a state/local training facilities (NIMS 100, 700, 800, etc.)