By Bill Webb
Since 1995, Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) Executive Director Bill Webb has attended the FEMSA/FAMA Annual/Fall Conference to discuss the work of Congress towards fire service issues. This year, his presentation focused on the status of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills, which provide discretionary funding to federal programs.
As of the date of Bill’s presentation, there had been little headway towards enacting any of the 12 appropriations bills. While the full House had approved ten measures and the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared ten, not one had been voted on by the full Senate by the end of September. Due to the lack of progress, Congress was forced to approve a “continuing resolution” (CR) to allow more time to complete their work. The CR funds the government through November 21st but, as Webb mentioned, Congress will most likely need to approve another CR to allow additional time to address the more contentious issues holding up the appropriations bills.
For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill has been controversial again this year. Per Webb, it will most likely be the last appropriations bill Congress addresses. If the House and Senate cannot resolve their differences, they may resort to another CR that will fund DHS programs at FY2019 levels for the remainder of FY2020.
The impasse between the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate stems from disagreements over funding for a wall along the southern border. Similar disagreements last year lead to a partial government shutdown that lasted for 35 days. Webb expressed his hope that Congress will find a way to approve a DHS appropriations bill to ensure that the fire service can receive vital funding increases for FY2020.
Webb outlined some of the programs and agencies that would receive additional funds based on the levels contained in the House and Senate measures. AFG/SAFER, funded at $700 million in FY2019, would receive FY2020 funding of $750 million in the House bill and $710 million in the Senate bill. The U.S. Fire Administration, with a $44.2 million enacted level for FY2019, would receive $47.23 million in the House bill and $46.84 million in the Senate bill. While the House and the Senate will ultimately have to reach a compromise on the final numbers for these programs and agencies, the recommended funding in both chambers indicate that increases are likely unless there is a CR.
In closing, Webb thanked the members of both associations for their continued support of CFSI and encouraged them to continue engaging their members of Congress in discussions about support for our nation’s fire service and the industry that equips our 32,000 fire departments.