Thanks to Tester, Montana firefighters eligible for new resources

Starting January 30, local governments can apply for budget relief

(U.S. SENATE) – Starting next week, Montana fire departments will be able to apply for new resources to hire or retain employees without burdensome federal regulations, Senator Jon Tester announced today.

In September, Tester championed a provision making it easier for small fire departments to apply for the grants, which allow them to hire firefighters or keep them on the job. Thanks to Tester’s provision, the Federal Emergency Management Administration will accept grant applications from Monday, January 30 until February 24.

Without Tester’s efforts, many of Montana’s fire departments would not be able to apply for these critical, job- and life-saving resources. That’s because previous restrictions forced departments to make dramatic cuts or limit personnel decisions in order to receive funding, exacerbating budget difficulties. Great Falls had to turn back a grant awarded under the old rules in 2008 because it could not afford a cost-sharing requirement. With the new rules, the city intends to apply for funding for eight new firefighters.

“We have to let Montana fire departments do their jobs without tying their hands,” Tester said. “Montana’s firefighters need to have the tools to keep our communities safe without too much red tape. Removing these restrictions will give departments more flexibility, and I’m proud we got this done for Montana’s first responders.”

Many small communities across Montana still struggle to provide emergency services without raising taxes or laying off firefighters. The increased flexibility provided by Tester’s measure will help local communities who receive these grants avoid difficult decisions.

“The Montana State Firemen’s Association appreciates Senator Tester’s dedication and determination toward fixing this frustrating issue,” said Doug Neil, the association’s Political Director. “Jon’s measure allows fire departments and cities across Montana to hire the firefighters they need to be prepared for and respond to our state’s emergency needs.”

Montana Fire Departments seeking to apply for the grants, known as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, should click HERE.

Tester’s office will help fire departments with their applications. Fire chiefs are welcome to call Tester’s Missoula office at (406) 728-3003 or toll free at 866-554-4403.