FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 15, 2007
Schumer Fights To Restore Full Funding To Federal Fire Grant Program - Backs Franklin County's Call To Save Vital Program
Grant Program Has Sent Franklin County Fire Departments Over $2.2 Million Since 2002 - But Program Gutted In '08 Budget
"Assistance to Firefighters Grants" Fund Life-Saving Equipment & Training To Departments Struggling to Stay Afloat
Schumer Has Doggedly Pushed For Additional Funding For Fire Departments And First Responders After Annual Budget Cuts
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today pledged to fight to restore full-funding to the federal FIRE grant program that has sent millions of dollars to Franklin County and North Country fire departments. Schumer has fought tirelessly each year to restore repeated budget cuts by the Bush administration to this essential program. Last week, the Franklin County Legislature passed a unanimous resolution at their meeting to support the restoration of funding to the FIRE grant program. As one of the original creators of the program, Schumer has aggressively lobbied for full funding of the FIRE grants program.
"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."
For the fourth year in a row, the Bush Administration budget has slated the Fire Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) grant program to be cut. Since 2002, this program has provided over $153 million for over 1,900 grants in New York alone. During this period, fire departments in Franklin County have secured $2,270,210 and bought seven new fire trucks and a vast array of firefighting equipment. For Fiscal Year 2008, Congress has authorized $1 billion for the program, $700 million more than the $300 million included in the Administration's budget proposal. This year's allotment is less than half of the $662 million for firefighter assistance grants included in the FY07 DHS Appropriations bill.
Last year, Schumer launched a grassroots campaign, sending petitions to every fire department in the state, asking firefighters to join his call to restore funding. 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. 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 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would restore 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.
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.