In the face of continuing threats our nation faces, we are asking our first responders to do more and more to protect us. Whether it is handling hazardous materials, rescuing victims of a natural disaster, or responding to a terrorist threat, the responsibilities of our public safety officers have grown exponentially to face the challenges of a changed world.
As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Bill has been a vocal advocate for public safety and a champion of increasing assistance to those who serve us. He has fought to stop repeated attempts to decimate public safety officer programs. Bill also authored the enormously successful Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement Act, or FIRE Act. Signed into law in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, the FIRE Act was the first comprehensive national legislation dedicated to meeting the needs of America's 32,000 volunteer, paid, and part-paid fire departments.
For years, Bill has won more federal dollars for New Jersey to pay for equipment and training of public safety officials. Bill has acted successfully to get our state its fair share of security grants by insisting that risk and vulnerabilities are taken into greater consideration within the State Homeland Security Grant Program. This includes his push for additional funding for the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which specifically addresses the unique planning, operations, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas like New Jersey.
Bill has long supported community policing that prioritizes listening, community relationships, trust, and de-escalation to keeping our communities safe. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner and Philando Castile, among many other Black Americans shows beyond all doubt that policing in our country is badly broken. To bring needed reforms, Bill cosponsored the Justice in Policing Act to change the culture of law enforcement so trust can be rebuilt. This landmark legislation achieves transformative, structural change by combatting the pattern of police brutality and racial injustice. This bill outlaws racial profiling, mandates de-escalation training, bans chokeholds and other excessively violent techniques, halts the flow of military equipment onto our street corners, and brings transparency and accountability to policing. Bill also cosponsors several other proposals to achieve these vital goals to reform policing in America.
Bill was the principal sponsor of H.R. 2379, reauthorization of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. On May 24, 2019, Bill’s legislation was signed into law, permanently authorizing $30,000,000 annually for the Bulletproof Vest Grant Program. Since its inception in 1999, the Bulletproof Vest Grant Program has provided funding to more than 13,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, allowing for the purchase of over one million bulletproof vests. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 3,000 law enforcement lives have been saved by armored vests since 1987.
And with the understanding that true public safety holds many separate components, Bill has authored an array of diverse legislation. Indeed, Rep. Pascrell crafted common sense legislation that requires that universities conduct annual fire safety reports for their students in his "Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act." Bill has also strived to ensure that federal chemical security standards do not preempt the stronger chemical security standards already in place in New Jersey.
Our nation asks a lot out of our first responders. Bill demands that Washington does all it can to help these men and women do their jobs to ensure the safety of all Americans.
In March of 1999, Bill introduced the "Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act," the first comprehensive legislation dedicated to meet the special needs of America's 32,000 volunteer, paid and part-paid fire departments. In its final version, the "FIRE Act" authorized $400 million over two years in competitive grants to the nation's local fire departments.
Grants are awarded directly to local fire departments best able to identify their needs to be used to hire new personnel, initiate education and training programs, or to purchase new equipment. Paid, volunteer, and part-paid departments will all be eligible for the grants under the program, which is being administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Grants are awarded in seven categories: training, wellness/fitness programs, vehicles, firefighting equipment, personal protective equipment, fire prevention programs, and other miscellaneous grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. Fire departments are eligible to apply for grants in up to two categories. Smaller departments serving communities of less than 50,000 must provide a ten-percent match in non-federal funds, while departments serving communities larger than 50,000 in population must provide a thirty-percent match.
Three types of grants are available: Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S), and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).
There is not a limit on the maximum reward of this grant when it is used to purchase equipment, but there is a limit when it is used to fund hiring personnel. The limit of eligibility per applicant on firefighters is $108,380.
FP&S grants are limited to $1 million.
The maximum funding available under this grant depends on the population that is served by the fire department. If the fire department serves up to 500,000 people, it is eligible for up to $1 million. If the fire department serves 500,000 - 1,000,000 people, it is eligible for $1.75 million. If the fire department serves over 1,000,000 people it is eligible for $2.75 million.
Eligible applicants for the Fire Prevention and Safety Activity include fire departments of national, state, local, or community organizations recognized in fire prevention and safety programs and activities. These include private and public nonprofit organizations.
AFG grants are available to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations. In order for an EMS organization to be eligible for a grant, that EMS organization cannot be affiliated with a hospital. This means not receiving any kind of direct support from the hospital, in conditions of supplies, personnel, or services.