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AFG 2023 arrives in 2024: Critical changes you need to know

Detailing changes to equipment and PPE priority lists

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FEMA has announced that the 2023 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Program is open and will remain open until Friday, March, at 4 p.m. ET. There are several critical changes to priority rankings that could affect your project. As such, I strongly encourage you to read the Notice of Funding Opportunity before you start your application.

Allocations of AFG funds by organization type

I constantly hear people say, “There is no use for us to apply because all the money goes to big career fire departments.” Let’s clear up any confusion here. There’s a distribution formula baked into the legislation that funds the AFG program. Here’s the breakdown of how AFG money must be distributed:

  • Fire Departments: Not less than 25% of available grant funds shall be awarded to career, combination or volunteer department types (total of 75%).
  • Non-affiliated EMS Organizations: Not more than 2% of available grant funds shall be collectively awarded to all nonaffiliated EMS organization recipients.
  • Emergency Medical Services Providers: Not less than 3.5% of available grant funds shall fund EMS provided by fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations.
  • State Fire Training Academy: Not more than 3% of available grant funds shall be collectively awarded to all SFTA recipients. Further, not more than $500,000 of available federal grant funds may be awarded per SFTA applicant.
  • Vehicles: Not more than 25% of available grant funds may be used by recipients for the purchase of vehicles. Of that amount, based on stakeholder recommendations, FEMA intends to allocate 10% of the total vehicle funds for ambulances.
  • Micro Grants: The selection of the voluntary Micro Grant option (cumulative federal funding of $75,000) for eligible High Priority Operations and Safety activities does not impact an applicant’s request or participation under the Vehicle Acquisition or Regional projects. Applicants who select Micro Grants under Operations and Safety as a funding opportunity choice may still apply for a Vehicle Acquisition or Regional project. Of the 25% allocated to each of the career, combination, and volunteer departments, FEMA will aim to fund no less than 25% of the allocation for Micro Grants.

For this AFG cycle, FEMA has placed a high priority on funding PPE. You may ask, “How is that different? Hasn’t PPE always been a high-priority item?” Yes, it has, but FEMA has signaled that its funding in recent years has not kept pace with the needs of the fire service for replacing turnout gear and SCBA. There is also the concern that not meeting replacement needs is putting firefighters at heightened risk of carcinogen exposure. Furthermore, FEMA’s funding for the AFG program has remained relatively stagnant in recent years. For 2023, AFG will have $324 million available for eligible applicants. To meet the need for PPE and remain within spending limits, FEMA has redefined their priority list for the PPE and equipment categories of AFG.

EMS grant resources
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Eligible regional activities under AFG are Vehicle Acquisition, Training, Equipment, Wellness and Fitness, and PPE activities
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Equipment changes

Here’s a snapshot of the priority list changes.

Cascade systems/compressors are only a high priority if it is regional request. Equipment items such as extrication tools, and mobile radios have been moved to a medium priority for this application period.

These are the only Equipment high-priority projects:

  • IDLH monitoring
  • IDLH protection for investigators
  • Portable radios
  • Thermal imaging cameras
  • Hose/nozzles/appliances
  • Hand tools
  • RIT packs
  • PPE washer/dryer; SKID unit for a brush truck
  • Vehicle-mounted diesel exhaust systems

PPE changes

PFAS-free turnout gear is strongly recommended if you can find it. Additionally, PPE can be replaced if deemed damaged/unsafe/unrepairable regardless of age (see Note 2 in the purpose statement below).

Purpose statement high priority:

1. Increase supply for new hire/existing firefighters that do not have one set of PPE or allocated seated position; this includes replacing out of service PPE and SCBA

2. Replace in-service/in-use/damaged/ unsafe/unrepairable PPE or SCBA to meet current standard.

3. Replace in-service/in-use/expired/noncompliant PPE or SCBA to current standard.

Get ready

Remember, the AFG application period closes March 8. All eligible applicants must be registered and active in the System for Award Management (SAM) before you can start an application. Visit the site to register or validate your SAM information.

FEMA anticipates making awards starting April 30, 2024.

Good luck, and if you need assistance with your applications, contact EMSGrantsHelp. Grant writing assistance is available – just ask for help!

Jerry Brant is a senior grant consultant and grant writer with FireGrantsHelp and EMSGrantsHelp. He has 46 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter in west-central Pennsylvania. He is a life member of the Hope Fire Company of Northern Cambria, where he served as chief for 15 years. He is an active member of the Patton Fire Company 1 and serves as safety officer. Brant graduated from Saint Francis University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. In 2003, he was awarded a James A Johnson Fellowship by the FannieMae Foundation for his accomplishments in community development, and in 2019, he was honored as with the Leroy C Focht Sr. Memorial Award from the Central District Volunteer Fireman’s Association. He has successfully written more than $70 million in grant applications. Brant can be reached via email.