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Schumer-Created Programs—AFG & SAFER—Are Critical Funding Streams To Help Directly Staff And Equip Upstate Departments— But Were Set To Expire This Year; Schumer Led Charge To Save Funding, Throw Cold Water On These Cuts, And Now Has Passed New Legislation To Extend Critical Funding For NY Fire Departments

Senator Turns Up Heat On The House To Quickly Take Up Bill, And Get It To The President’s Desk To Be Signed Into Law So Upstate Firefighters Don’t Lose Out On Hundreds of Millions In Critical Funding 

Schumer: When Our Upstate Firefighters Smelled Smoke, I Led The Senate To Throw Cold Water On These Looming Cuts And Rescue This Lifesaving Funding For Our Heroic Fire Departments

After an all-out push launched to save federal funding for New York Fire Departments, standing with firefighters from the Capital Region to the Southern Tier, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced the Fire Grants and Safety Act of 2023 which would save this vital lifeline has passed the Senate.

Schumer explained the main federal firefighter funding programs - the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program – which help hire new firefighters and purchase lifesaving equipment, are both at risk of being eliminated this year.

Schumer, who helped create these programs, said the new bill, which has now passed the Senate, would extend this funding through Fiscal Year (FY) 2030, preserving this critical funding that has delivered over $682 million to firefighters across the Empire State. 

“When our New York fire departments smelled smoke on how devastating these cuts would be, I traveled to every corner of the state standing with our firefighters to sound the alarm. Everyday our brave firefighter in Upstate New York risk their lives to keep their communities safe, and I promised to use all my clout as majority leader to hold feet to the fire and lead this bill to passage; And a promise made is now a promise kept,” said Senator Schumer. “Since the start of the AFG and SAFER programs, which I helped create, New York has received nearly $700 million in federal funding through these critical federal lifelines. That is money for new fire trucks, better equipment, and to hire more firefighters in the Upstate communities that need them most. I’m proud to have led the Fire Grants and Safety Act to passage in the Senate, and I will continue fighting tooth and nail to ensure that NY firefighters get the federal support they need to keep our communities safe for years to come.”

Schumer traveled across Upstate New York, from the Capital Region to the Southern Tier to the Hudson Valley, to sound the alarm on the potential elimination of this lifesaving federal funding for NY fire departments, promising he would not relent until the bill had passed the Senate. Schumer originally created the AFG Program in 1999, which later expanded to also include the SAFER and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program, and the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) programs.

Schumer explained that these federal programs have been a lifeline for firefighters and have become essential to their continued operations. Fire departments, especially those in Upstate New York, often face budget shortfalls and extremely high costs that mean they cannot purchase the modern equipment they need to combat emergencies to keep firefighters safe. Schumer said that the AFG and SAFER grants have positively benefited fire departments in every corner of Upstate New York, and with the passage of the Fire Grants and Safety Act, NY firefighters will continue to receive the federal support they need to purchase lifesaving equipment and hire more firefighters throughout Upstate.

Specifically, the Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration, the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program through Fiscal Year (FY) 2030. The bill also extends the sunset for both SAFER and AFG from 2024 to 2032 and increases the authorization for the U.S. Fire Administration by about $20 million, while maintaining the authorized funding level for SAFER and AFG at $750 million, each.

The senator is now calling on the House of Representatives to quickly take up the legislation he led to passage in the Senate, and to get the bill to the President’s desk ASAP to be signed into law.

Schumer said, “Now the House needs to quickly take up the Fire Grants and Safety Act and pass this vital legislation so fire departments across America can continue to receive the federal support they desperately need, and I will not stop turning up the heat until this vital legislation for our firefighters becomes law.”

Since the start of these programs in 2002, the grants have delivered nearly $700 million in federal funding to NY firefighters. Schumer said that losing this funding would be felt especially hard for firefighters across Upstate New York, who have received over $78.5 million in federal funding through these programs in just the past three years.

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Schumer said that if the programs were to cease that would mean lifesaving equipment and the hundreds of New York firefighters that have been hired, or recruited in the case of volunteer departments, thanks to this funding might never have happened. For example, last year, the Troy and Saratoga Springs fire departments received nearly $8 million to hire 30 new firefighters, and in 2019, the Buffalo Fire Department received nearly $10 million to hire 50 new firefighters. Over the past few years, multiple fire departments have received millions to purchase new ladder trucks, radio systems, self-contained breathing apparatus devices, cardiac monitoring devices, and other lifesaving equipment.

The AFG and SAFER grant programs are both administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide competitive funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to purchase essential equipment and help them increase the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.