Without question, it was good news on March 31 when DHS and FEMA released $55.8 million in SAFER grants.
But as we scanned the list of departments that will receive these initial grants as part of the first round of funding, we had serious concerns about the process FEMA used to compile that list since we identified some grants that were released didn't fulfill the prioritization that we had developed last year.
So we met with FEMA/DHS officials on Tuesday, April 6 to ask them why some departments that laid off firefighters weren’t getting grants in the first round.
This was the issue – last year, when we as stakeholders decided, and DHS agreed/ that applications from departments should be ranked in the following priority: 1) departments with layoffs; 2) departments with reductions in force; and 3) departments that want to hire new personnel so they are NFPA compliant.
But career FEMA officials appeared to ignore that newly adopted list of priorities that were agreed to. So we met with senior political FEMA/DHS officials.
In our April 6 meeting, FEMA admitted that they ignored the new ranking system established by stakeholders.
As you can imagine, we were stunned by that news. They had no sound defense for their decision to ignore what everyone had agreed to.
More importantly as a follow up to the meeting DHS has assured us that FEMA will follow the prioritization as it was agreed to and departments with layoffs will now be given priority and receive SAFER funding first. Departments with reductions in force will be given second priority, and departments that want SAFER funding for new hires will be given.
The system has been corrected, and more help is on the way to put our members back to work that were laid off and fill positions that have been RIFed during this current economic recession