SCHUMER: CRITICAL FED PROGRAM HELPING LOCAL FIRE DEPTS. PURCHASE NEW EQUIPMENT, PROTECTIVE GEAR & EMERGENCY VEHICLES AT RISK OF SHUTTING DOWN RIGHT AS FD’S ARE APPLYING FOR FUNDING – SCHUMER URGES CONGRESS TO FUND PROGRAM THAT HELPS KEEP FIREFIGHTERS & RESIDENTS SAFE BEFORE IT EXPIRES AT END OF THIS MONTH
Without Congressional Action, Funding For The Dept. Of Homeland Security Will Expire On Feb 27, Furloughing Vital Staff Working On Grant Programs, Such As Funds For Local Firefighter Needs – Program Is Incredibly Important To Fire Departments All Across the State, Who Rely On These Funds To Purchase New Trucks, Safety Gear & More
Schumer Says Any Lapse In Funding, Particularly Now During Middle of Application Period, Would Be A Blow To Local Fire Departments Looking To Upgrade Equipment To Better Protect Residents & Emergency Personnel – Schumer Calls On Both Democrat & Republican Colleagues To Keep Critical Fire Safety Program Alive
There Are Currently 58 Fire Depts. In The Capital Region Applying for Federal Firefighter Funds; 75 in Central NY; 76 in Western NY; 74 in the Rochester-Finger Lakes; 73 in the Southern Tier; 83 in the Hudson Valley; and 68 in the North Country
Today, on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed to ensure there are no unnecessary delays or disruptions for local fire departments that are seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment, protective gear and emergency vehicles through three federal grant programs – the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program, and the Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) Grant Program – that are currently at risk of shutting down before the end of this month. Schumer noted that these programs fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, which must be reauthorized by February 27th or else staff working on these vital grant programs will be furloughed and grant decisions will be delayed. Schumer said that these programs are extremely important to hundreds of local fire departments across the state who have used federal funding to purchase new trucks, hoses and turnout gear; and that the timing of a potential shutdown could not come at a worse time for the 507 fire departments across Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley that have applied for grants this year, since some funding decisions are scheduled to be made starting next month. Schumer urged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a sensible solution to funding this program and not let it get caught up in larger debates about border security and immigration.
“Helping firefighters and first responders across New York State is something that is always at the front of my mind, and I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to our fire departments. So I will be working double-time with both my Democratic and Republican colleagues to make sure federal fire grant programs do not get caught up in the muck or become collateral damage in the political wrangling over DHS funding. Funding to help keep our firefighters safe should be above the fray,” said Schumer.
Schumer explained that Congress is currently debating a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the principle federal agency charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorism and prepared for natural disasters. Funding for DHS will run out on February 27, meaning Congress must pass a bill by then to fund the agency or several key programs will lapse and any staff deemed “non-essential” would be temporarily furloughed. Among the programs at risk of shutting down until funding is restored are the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), and Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) grant programs, since they fall under the purview of DHS.
These critical programs would not have the DHS staff during a furlough to process applications. Schumer said this is particularly troubling because the lapse would occur during the middle of the application period, when 507 fire departments across Upstate New York are applying for AFG grants. Schumer said some federal firefighter funding decisions are scheduled to be made as early as next month if the program is kept intact. DHS grants these funds on a rolling basis so awards to firehouses across New York would be delayed until DHS is once again funded. Furthermore, when the agency gets back up and running, it would take time for the furloughed staff to come back and resume their work in a way that would not delay these important firefighter funding programs. Because federal grants can constitute such a significant part of a fire district’s fiscal plan, Schumer said firehouses across New York need to know the results of their applications in order to budget for the year, meaning a delay in awards could serve as a major blow to local fire departments.
The AFG, SAFER, and FP&S grant programs provide critical assistance to local fire departments that often depend on federal funding to purchase new trucks, hoses, turnout gear, breathing equipment, and more in order to protect residents and emergency personnel. The AFG program provides funds for firefighter training, facility upgrades, new equipment and more. The SAFER program provides funding for the hiring of firefighters for career departments, as well as the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. The FP&S program supports projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. Schumer said fire district budgets around New York State are strapped for funding, and these federal firefighter programs are a great way to provide vital funding for equipment, staffing and safety upgrades without passing a heavy burden along to taxpayers.
Schumer is urging his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together and pass a bill to fund DHS before the February 27 deadline. Schumer said a “clean bill,” without controversial amendments or riders, is the best way to ensure passage is not jeopardized and critical DHS programs, including those that assist firefighters across New York, do not lapse. Schumer said failure to pass a DHS funding bill could mean fire districts across the state have to wait longer than usual to hear about their applications, delaying their budgeting and leaving them in the dark about receiving support for critical equipment and staffing needs.
"Despite the improvements in the economy, municipal and fire department budgets remain greatly constrained by the need to keep local property taxes in check,” said Jerry DeLuca, Executive Director & CEO of the NY State Association of Fire Chiefs. “Federal programs such as the AFG, SAFER and FP&S grants allow the fire service to continue to meet the needs or expand necessary programs to benefit their communities without impacting local taxpayers. It is vital to public safety that these grants are not held up due to a fight over the Department of Homeland Security budget”
During the call, Schumer provided county-by-county information on the fire departments throughout New York that have applied for a combined $103 million in federal firefighter funds during this application round. Schumer said there are 507 total fire departments across Upstate NY applying for federal AFG funds this year. Schumer also noted that, between 2014 and 2013, a total of 280 fire departments across Upstate NY received a total of $31,632,099 in federal firefighter funds through DHS.
- In the Capital Region, there are 58 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 43 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $4,249,957.
- In Central NY, there are 75 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 47 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $5,329,441.
- In Western NY, there are 76 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 44 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $4,303,602.
- In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there are 74 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 36 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $3,737,528.
- In the Southern Tier, there are 73 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 42 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $5,753,077.
- In the Hudson Valley, there are 83 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 36 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $6,925,977.
- In the North Country, there are 68 fire departments applying for federal firefighter funds this year. Between 2014 and 2013, 32 fire departments were awarded federal funds totaling $1,332,517.
Schumer has long fought to secure the kind of funding needed to keep fire departments across New York well-equipped and adequately staffed. In 1999, Schumer was one of the original group of Senators who created this federal grant program for fire services for the first time. Schumer said that, over the years, these successful programs have provided funding to hundreds of volunteer and professional fire departments in towns across New York. Since their inception in 1999, AFG, SAFER, and FP&S grants have brought over $300 million to volunteer and career fire departments across Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley.