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Lehigh Acres Fire District approves SAFER grant funding

By MELISSA BILL - | Oct 7, 2020

news@breezenewspapers.com

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District’s Board of Commissioners voted last Thursday to approve the acceptance of a SAFER Grant. The district will receive federal funding under the Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2019 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.

District staff completed the application for funding in May and received notification of the approval on Sept. 16. The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District application was awarded a total of $7,952,678.37, paid over the next three years.

“This grant is very specific in that it’s to be used solely to fund additional staffing of firefighters payroll and benefits, not gear or equipment,” said Katie Heck, Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District spokesperson.

According to Lehigh Fire Chief Robert DiLallo, the grant comes at the right time.

“The SAFER grant from FEMA is very fortunate. It’s short-term and only for paying for workforce salaries. I cannot overstate how much this timing really helps. Coupled with the time needed to ramp up the simplified fire assessment, which presents a long-term positive solution for needed operation and capital funding, the SAFER money is more than a temporary fix, it is a needed transition to sustainability for our District’s financial future,” DiLallo said. “After this, I expect we will not be getting such a grant. We are so thankful.”

The funding will begin in March of 2021, is made available after quarterly reports are submitted for reimbursement. The federal grant will fund salaries and benefits for 21 new firefighter positions needed to staff Station 106. It does not cover equipment or apparatus.

According to FEMA’s website, the SAFER program provides federal funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.

The SAFER Grant Program provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities. A fire department’s ability to meet staffing requirements helps communities meet industry minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing, so they can provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.

“The SAFER Grant will be a tremendous asset to the District,” DiLallo stated. “The grant will directly fund the additional firefighter positions needed to staff the new Station 106, which is currently under development. This new station, located in the Northeast section of the District, will significantly enhance our ability to meet the emergency response needs of the community.”

This will be the first year since 2012 that the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District was awarded a SAFER grant. Between Aug. 14, 2010 and Aug. 13, 2012, they were awarded $8,971,851, and between Sept. 14, 2012 and Sept. 2014 awarded $6,716,874.

In order to be eligible to receive an Economic Hardship Waiver, all SAFER applicants must demonstrate certain criteria and meet the minimum requirements, plus conduct and supply a self-evaluation where applicants must clearly address the following points:

• Why does the department need the positions requested in this application?

• How will the positions requested in this application be used within the department (fourth firefighter on engine, open a new station, eliminate browned out stations, reduce overtime)?

• What specific benefits will the requested positions provide to the fire department and community?

• Describe how funds awarded through this grant enhance the department’s ability to protect critical infrastructure within the primary response area.

For more details on the SAFER Grant visit www.nfpa.org/SAFERActGrant