WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a bill this week that will benefit the Fulton Fire Department.
The bill, backed by U.S. Claire McCaskill, will extend funding for grant programs to local firefighters and emergency responders. The law helps fire and emergency services personnel continue to have access to critical training, equipment, and staffing resources.
In 2016, Fulton Fire Department was granted $182,858, fire Chief Kevin Coffelt said.
"We had to match $9,142, 5 percent," he said. "We received a grant for airpacks. We're going to get 30 of them. They're actually out for bid right now. We got the last ones on the same grant 14 years ago."
McCaskill said she's pleased Trump signed this bipartisan bill, which she said will mean more personnel and better equipment for Mid-Missouri fire departments.
"Firefighters risk their lives every day protecting Missourians — and this legislation helps ensure these brave first responders have the resources they need," McCaskill said.
The United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017 reauthorizes the highly successful Assistance to Firefighters Grant and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs through Fiscal Year 2024. AFG protects communities and firefighters from fire-related hazards by providing eligible fire departments the financial support to train, equip and properly resource America's emergency personnel. The SAFER program provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help increase and maintain the number of trained firefighters in local communities.
In Fiscal Year 2016, Mid-Missouri fire departments received more than $950,000 in grant funding through these programs. Besides Fulton Fire Department, other grant recipients included the Missouri Division of Fire Safety based in Jefferson City, Gravois and Rocky Mount fire protection districts, and Meta Fire and Rescue.
McCaskill — who formerly prosecuted arson cases in Jackson County — said she is a longtime supporter of grant funding for state and local first responders and law enforcement. This includes the Justice Department's Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which allows state and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime. Last year, McCaskill met with Missouri's State Council of Firefighters to discuss her commitment to public safety and the funding challenges they face.
McCaskill also is backing legislation to boost recruiting and retention by strengthening education benefits for volunteer firefighters and first responders at about 100 fire departments in Missouri. McCaskill's plan would expand eligibility to volunteer firefighters and first responders for the Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Any volunteer firefighter or first responder with student loans would be eligible for this program, which could pay off the entirety of their student loan debt.