September 3, 2020by Shannon Creamer-Franke


Pennsylvania COVID-19 Crisis Grant Program


In late May, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed emergency legislation creating a new, $50 million grant program for fire and EMS departments. Funded by Pennsylvania’s share of the Federal CARES Act stimulus package, this new COVID-19 Crisis Grant Program will provide $44 million to fire companies and $6 million to EMS companies. The structure of the program and the amounts provided will likely be similar to the state’s existing annual Fire Company and EMS Grant Program, which typically provides grants up to $15,000. The Office of the State Fire Commissioner is managing this program and applications are due in early August. Be sure to check their website for instructions and updates.




While the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly changed the financial landscape for fire departments across the country, the FEMA Fire Act grant programs – AFG, SAFER, and FP&S – remain the largest and most popular grant programs for fire & EMS departments. Before the crisis began, these programs were already slated to provide $710,000,000 in funding to thousands of departments over the coming year. As part of the CARES Act stimulus package, Congress added an additional $100,000,000 for a supplemental Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG-S) to provide coronavirus-related PPE. Additional stimulus packages may increase Federal grant funding for FY2020 and beyond.


FEMA Grant Schedule Update


A virtual panel review for AFG-S applications took place in late May and the first AFG-S awards were announced on June 19, 2020. We can safely assume that all reviews will be done virtually for a while. We anticipate award announcements for FY2019 AFG, SAFER, and FP&S grant applications to be made over the course of the summer and completed by September 30, 2020, as required by law.


On paper, the FEMA grant programs operate based on the Federal government’s fiscal year cycle. Due to delays over the years, such as the government shutdown early last year, deployment of FEMA personnel for natural disasters, and the current pandemic, these programs are way behind schedule. For example, the FY2019 SAFER grant application period closed in May 2020, nearly 8 months after the end of the actual 2019 fiscal year last September! The normal process has been further delayed with the addition of this year’s special AFG-S grant round and delays of the panel review sessions due to the pandemic.


FEMA has not given any firm projection on when the FY2020 rounds will open, but we expect they will try to get back on track and open AFG sometime this fall (even as early as August or September), followed by the FY2020 FP&S and the FY2019 SAFER application in the winter. The actual dates are only announced a few weeks ahead of the application period, so it’s absolutely critical to prepare your application well ahead of time.


Waiver of SAFER Requirements


In recognition of the severe financial strain on departments caused by the pandemic, FEMA waived the cost share, position cost limit, supplanting, and minimum budget requirements for FY2019 SAFER applications. Therefore, departments who ultimately get an award to hire firefighters will receive 100% Federal funding. It remains to be seen whether these changes will carry forward to next year, or whether similar waivers will apply to the FY2020 AFG or FP&S rounds.


Tips for FY2020 AFG


Aside from that, we do not expect AFG program guidelines to change substantially. We recommend AFG applicants should focus their requests for funding on basic operational equipment designated high-priority for replacement by FEMA, such as older SCBA, PPE, hose, radios, extrication tools, gear washers, EMS equipment, and more (see the most recent AFG Notice of Funding Opportunity for more details). In addition to replacing older equipment, AFG will also fund some building modifications including automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, and exhaust ventilation for stations that are in use 24/7. Apparatus awards remain highly competitive: out of over 2,000 vehicle applications, AFG awarded just 128 trucks last year. To successfully secure a vehicle award, a department generally needs to operate a very old fleet, respond to a sufficient number of calls annually, and serve a substantial population.


About Firehouse Grants


Firehouse Grants specializes in preparing grant applications for fire departments, EMS departments, and other public safety agencies. We have substantial experience in successfully obtaining funds from FEMA Fire Act programs (including AFG, SAFER, and FP&S), the Port Security Grant Program, Community Development Block Grants, corporate grants, and foundation grants (including Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and FM Global). Our success is built upon our in-depth knowledge of the grant programs, our expertise in technical writing, and our understanding of fire and emergency services.


Firehouse Grants is led by David Schwartz who is an experienced grant writer specializing in the emergency services industry. David has been a volunteer firefighter in the suburbs of Philadelphia since 2001. The rest of our staff are also firefighters and we are all committed to serving you and your community. Contact us at


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