IAFC letter to Trump, Congress details 5 fire, EMS needs ahead of next stimulus bill
President Gary Ludwig says CARES Act does not fully address needs of first responders on the front lines
By Janelle Foskett
CHANTILLY, Virginia — International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) President Gary Ludwig sent a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Monday on behalf of the nation’s fire and EMS chiefs, outlining the top needs of first responders on the front lines of the pandemic in advance of the next stimulus bill.
Ludwig details the number of first responders who have died, been quarantined or been exposed, noting, “If we lose our emergency personnel to the disease, we cannot transport people to hospitals and protect our community members.”
Ludwig explains that while the IAFC applauds the passage of the CARES Act, the bill does not fully address the needs of first responders on the front lines. He details five fire and EMS requests that will help firefighters and EMS personnel remain safe and better positioned to serve their communities:
1. Special funding of $5 billion for the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) programs to support fire and EMS response to COVID-19: The $5 billion funding the AFG program would be targeted for reimbursement and future purchases of PPE.
2. Special funding of $5 billion for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs to support fire and EMS response to COVID-19: The $5 billion funding would provide reimbursement for backfill and overtime staffing, including overtime labor for budgeted employees and straight-time employees, overtime labor for unbudgeted employees, backfill employee labor, call-back pay, night-time pay, weekend differential pay, and stand-by time. Additionally, this fund would help prevent the loss of fire department jobs as a result of recession and the loss of taxes to communities because of the economic shutdown.
Ludwig noted, “We ask that the peer review and criteria development requirements for the AFG and SAFER grant programs be waived to ensure that this funding is delivered to fire and EMS departments in an expeditious manner.”
3. Priority to Equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile: “The federal government must prioritize fire department and EMS agency access to PPE and other supplies coming from the Strategic National Stockpile and any relevant state stockpiles,” Ludwig writes. “States and counties that accept FEMA funding must be mandated to prioritize fire and EMS in Tier 1 for receiving PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile.”
4. Drug shortages: “Fire departments and EMS agencies must be notified as soon as possible about pending drug shortages as well as receive prioritized access to medications as they are released from the Strategic National Stockpile,” Ludwig writes. “When medications are released from the Strategic National Stockpile, fire departments and EMS agencies must receive prioritized access in order to continue caring for critically ill and injured patients in their communities.”
5. Testing and Vaccinations: “Firefighters and EMS personnel should be prioritized to receive COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 vaccinations when they are developed and available,” Ludwig says. “Providing testing and vaccinations to firefighters and EMS personnel will ensure that they remain healthy and able to serve their communities without interruption as the public health crisis continues.”
Ludwig concluded by noting that, “With the efforts and support of the federal government, we know that there will be a green light after this red light,” he said. “However, we desperately need your help and support while we wait at the red light.”
IAFC representatives will be talking to House and Senate appropriations representatives this week about fire service needs in preparation for the next stimulus bill.
Read the full letter below
Update: IAFC President Gary Ludwig is calling on IAFC members to take action.