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Schumer To FEMA: Don’t Allow Newburgh Fire Department To Be Underfunded and Undermanned 

Last week, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer spoke directly with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long to urge him to review and fund the City of Newburgh Fire Department (NFD)’s forthcoming application for funding through the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Program. Schumer said SAFER Grants have helped low-income municipalities like Newburgh, throughout New York State increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters available in their communities.  Schumer said the past two rounds of SAFER funding have been a vital lifeline for NFD, allowing them to keep on firefighters, sustain and enhance their service, and better serve their community. Schumer said it is vital for FEMA to approve the forthcoming application so that NFD can hire nine essential full-time firefighters and continue to serve their severely financially-challenged city. 

“During my call with Administrator Long, I made it clear that Newburgh’s firefighters are local heroes – who risk their lives every day to protect their community,  Newburgh’s residents and its property,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to our volunteer and career fire departments, particularly when it comes to recruitment and retention. Back in 2013 and 2015, I was proud of the role I played to secure the funding needed to hire these 12 desperately needed firefighters for the City of Newburgh and last week I doubled down on my support for the Newburgh Fire Department by advocating directly to Administrator Long. I explained to the Administrator that the Newburgh Fire Department is vital to the community and urged him to review and fund their application. I have seen firsthand the work the Newburgh firefighters do, the lives they have saved, and the beacon of hope and security they bring to the City of Newburgh and the surrounding communities.”

"It's no secret that Senator Schumer has been a long time and relentless supporter, advocate, and friend of the City of Newburgh Fire Department. We asked for a letter of support for our grant application, as we always do, but he thought he could do more and personally decided to go the extra mile on our behalf. That willingness to go the extra mile makes him special. He has continuously gone above and beyond to keep our firefighters and our neighborhoods safe. We are very lucky to always have him on our side and we are always immensely grateful for the Senator's unwavering support and advocacy, but even more so now, as we join together to do everything in our power to secure this vital lifeline for our department," said Terry Ahlers, City of Newburgh Fire Chief. 

During his call with Administrator Long, Schumer praised the benefits the SAFER Program has had for the Newburgh Fire Department, and how it has allowed the city’s tremendous firefighters to continue their work protecting both Newburgh and many other surrounding communities outside of the city. Schumer urged Administrator Long to take a serious look at Newburgh’s application, and give real consideration to the tremendous impact the local firefighters have had on the city over the last few years.

Schumer said that Newburgh’s most recent SAFER grant is set to expire on July 31, 2018. Schumer explained that even though their previous SAFER grant allowed them to hire 12 firefighters, the city’s SAFER application for this cycle only requested funding to pay for nine of their salaries, after the City Council voted to keep three firefighters on their payroll. Newburgh Fire Department provides fire and emergency response services to the City of Newburgh and other mutual aid response areas in Orange County. They respond to situations at critical infrastructure in the nearby region, including the CSX railroad, Newburgh Beacon Ferry and Bridge, Stewart International Airport, the Hudson River, and the Petroleum Port of Newburgh. Without the renewal of SAFER funding, the Newburgh Fire Department risks nine layoffs, jeopardizing the safety of Newburgh’s citizens and firefighters.

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), established by FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security, was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities. The SAFER program provides funding for the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters, as well as the hiring of new firefighters for career departments. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments' abilities to comply with staffing, response, and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 1999, Schumer was one of the original group of senators who created this federal grant program for fire services for the first time.