FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 25, 2006
Schumer Visits Maybrook Fire Department To Launch Effort To Save Federal Fire Grant Program
Grant Program Has Sent Orange County Fire Departments Over $2 Million Since 2001 – But Program Now Slated To Be Gutted
Assistance To Firefighters Grants Fund Life-Saving Equipment And Training – Schumer To Detail Plan To Restore Full Funding
Senator Joined By Maybrook Fire Chief Charles Woznick, Deputy Chair of Fire Commission Matt Thorp, Montgomery Town Supervisor Susan Coc
New York fire departments could lose out on $31 million for equipment, training, and vehicles under a new federal budget proposal, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today. Schumer unveiled his grassroots plan to restore full funding for Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (also known as FIRE grants) that has provided fire departments throughout New York $102 million since it began in 2001 but is now slated for severe cuts. Since 2001, Orange County fire departments have received over $2 million from the critical program. The Maybrook Fire Department has received $91,200 which it used to purchase equipment.
“New York’s firefighters risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe and sound,” Schumer said. “We must do everything we can to give them the tools they need to protect us and keep our communities safe. We funded this bill because it can cost over $4,000 just to outfit a firefighter and up to $500,000 for a modern fire truck. People in small towns and big towns deserve the most modern firefighting equipment. We need to restore funding to this program and I'm going to fight to make sure we do just that.”
Schumer is touring fire houses across the state and meeting with fire chiefs to drum up support for the FIRE grants program and highlight the specific needs of Upstate New York fire departments. At Schumer's urging, fire departments across New York have taken advantage of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, and used funds for specialized emergency response training; the creation of wellness and fitness programs for firefighters; equipment and facility upgrades; new fire trucks; and fire prevention programs. These grants are distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Domestic Preparedness and are a main component of the federal government’s efforts to aid local first responders.
For Fiscal Year 2007, Congress has authorized $1 billion for the program, $707 million more than the $293 million included in the Administration’s budget proposal. The Administration’s proposal of only $293 million is 46% less than last year’s appropriation of $542 million. Schumer said that if the federal government fails to fully fund the authorization, the impact on already crunched local fire department budgets in New York will be exacerbated dramatically next year. If these cuts are approved, Orange County fire departments could lose $550,000 next year.
Because of its dramatic success in improving fire safety, Congress has raised the amount of money authorized for the program from $100 million for FY2001 to $950 million in FY 2006 and $1 billion in FY 2007. The program has been consistently underfunded, getting only $542 million in FY 2006. This is the third year in a row that the Administration has proposed cutting the program. Last year the Administration proposed cutting the program to $500 million from $650 million in FY 2005. Congress restored funding to $542 million, but this still fell short of the $950 million authorized for FY2006.
In response, Schumer is launching a grassroots campaign, sending petitions to every fire department in the state, asking firefighters to join his call to restore funding. Schumer said since this is a program that puts life-saving equipment in the hands of first responders, mobilizing firefighters across the state could be an effective way to show how critical these grants are to localities that need them.
Schumer also joined with Senate colleagues in supporting an amendment to the Budget that would increase funding for the FIRE grants program. Senator Schumer and some of his colleagues sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for full funding of the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program. Both the House and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations committees increased funding for the program to $655 million for FY07 up from the President’s Budget request of $293,450,000. The bill is expected to go to the House-Senate Conference Committee in the next few months, where Schumer will fight for full funding to the authorized level.
Schumer helped create the original Grants to Firefighters Program, co-sponsoring legislation in 2001 that led to its establishment. This program was passed with bi-partisan support including Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT,) Senator John McCain (R-AZ,) Senator Susan Collins (R-ME,) and many others. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was established to provide funding to career and volunteer fire departments and non-affiliated emergency medical services providers to help with the rising costs of equipment, vehicles and training. However, soon after the program’s establishment, Schumer played a central role in preventing the Bush Administration from eliminating funding for the program from the 2001 budget. Schumer also co-sponsored the 2004 re-authorization, which set full funding levels for the program at $1 billion in FY 2007.