2020 has certainly been a year of unprecedented occurrences. Just when you think that we have seen everything possible, something else materializes.
And with unprecedented challenges come unprecedented news. Specifically, FEMA recently announced that it will be opening its Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program – COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S) grant application period for a second round of funding. Never in its history has this occurred.
Why the bold move?
All AFG-related grant programs have built-in award ceilings based on the type of applicant. Career fire departments, all categories of EMS agencies, and state fire academies met their ceiling under the original AFG-S program. However, combination and volunteer departments did not have a sufficient number of successful applications to exhaust all their previously obligated funding. As a result, FEMA has announced that it will open a second round of AFG-S funding sometime in October.
This round will only be open to combination and volunteer departments. These departments are eligible to apply again even if they had a successful application in the first round. However, new applications must support new capabilities. Further, departments that applied in the first round but were unsuccessful must reapply in this round; applications from the first round will not automatically carry forward to this round for consideration.
What items are eligible?
Let’s now consider the list of eligible items for this grant program:
- Eye protection – Appropriately fitted, indirectly vented goggles or single-use disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face.
- Isolation gowns – Non-sterile, single-use fluid-resistant and impermeable disposable patient isolation gown.
- Protective coveralls – 360-degree protection of whole body, including the back, lower legs and feet.
- Gloves – Single-use, disposable patient examination gloves.
- Footwear covers – Single-use, disposable medical footwear covers.
- Respirators – Any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e., N-95 or higher-level respirator). Includes the purchase of filters appropriate for use.
- Surgical-type face masks – Loose-fitting, single-use disposable physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer to allow fire and EMS personnel to meet CDC recommendations and/or state mandates for face covering when in a public setting other than direct patient contact.
Other supplies are also eligible, but they will be considered a lower priority than items listed above. Examples include:
- Decontamination supplies and services for PPE, station-quarters and vehicles.
- Replacement High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters and other types of disposable filtration supplies used on EMS respiratory and/or ventilator equipment.
- Personally issued antiseptic hand washes, antiseptic hand rubs, such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers, foams or gels, and a reasonable amount of refill supplies.
Suggestions for a competitive application
Just like other grant applications, start your planning process now. Don’t wait until the application period has been announced. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that was used for the original AFG- S application will be also be utilized by FEMA for this application.
Please tell your story. Don’t use templates or cut pieces from another department’s application. If you start now, you will have sufficient time to collect the data you will need to develop a competitive application.
In your application, describe how COVID-19 has affected your area and your department’s ability to answer calls. Discuss your coverage area’s current financial situation. Include data, like the latest unemployment figures for your area. Also discuss budget cuts that your department may be experiencing. If your department relies heavily on fundraising activities, then discuss in detail how many fundraising events you have had to cancel and how this has impacted the budget. Be as specific as you can. Generalized statements like “We don’t have any money” aren’t going to get you funded.
Some additional tips: Applicants requesting reimbursement or immediate use of PPE will receive a higher consideration than applicants requesting funds to prepare for future response capabilities. Applicant requests should align with information about current supply, response usage, and anticipated peak dates.
All indications point to a second resurgence of COVID-19 this fall and winter, so now is the time to ensure you are prepared not only for today but what’s ahead.
Remember, this grant will only be open to combination and volunteer departments. This gives smaller departments an advantage that they usually don’t have when it comes to federal funding. I highly recommend applying for this program.