10.31.06

Schumer: Federal Budget Proposal Stiffs Ny Fire Departments By $18 Million Next Year

FIRE Grants program, a lifeline to paid and volunteer fire departments large and small throughout NY, is underfunded by $400 million nationwide in new budget proposal; Program that funds equipment & training has sent NY fire dept's $53 million since 2001With New York fire departments struggling to stay afloat, Schumer plan would restore full funding for the program

Schumer details cuts each NY county faces; Capital Region fire departments could lose $2.5 million; Central NY $1.5 m; Rochester/Finger Lakes $2 m; Hudson Valley $2.9 m; North Country $2.2 m; Southern Tier $2.6 m; Western NY $3.9 m

New York fire departments could lose out on over $18 million for equipment, training, and fire trucks next year under the Administration's new federal budget proposal, US Senator Charles E. Schumer warned today. Schumer released a new report showing that the Administration's request to shortchange the USFA Grants to Firefighters Program by $400 million would hit New York particularly hard because fire departments in each county of the state have received a total of $53 million since the program began in 2001.

"The reason funding for this program has always increased so much is that it was so successful. New York fire departments facing huge budget gaps have been able to get money to plug in their holes, pay for fire trucks, train their staff, and fill their equipment needs," Schumer said. "You don't need to be an expert in security issues to know that getting our fire departments the skills and tools they need makes all of us safer. It's good for the fire departments, good for the localities, and good for the local residents they serve so ably. We need to fully fund this program and I'm going to fight tooth and nail to do just that."

At Schumer's urging, fire departments across New York have taken advantage of the Grants to Firefighters Program, which sends funds directly for activities such as hiring additional firefighting personnel; specialized emergency response training for situations like terrorist attacks; the creation of wellness and fitness programs for firefighters; equipment and facility upgrades; new fire trucks; and fire prevention programs. Because of its dramatic success in improving fire safety, Congress has raised the amount of money available in the program from $100 million for 2001, to $350 million for 2002, to $745 million for 2003, and finally to $750 million for 2004.

For 2005, Congress authorized $900 million for the program, but the Administration's newly released budget proposal drops that number to just $500 million. Schumer said that if the federal government fails to fully fund the authorization, the impact of local budget crunches on fire departments in New York will be exacerbated dramatically next year. His budget analysis revealed that the proposed budget could impact fire departments in the state at the following levels:

" Capital Region fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $2.5 million; " Central New York fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $1.5 million; " Rochester/Finger Lakes fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $2 million; " Hudson Valley fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $2.9 million; " North Country fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $2.2 million; " Southern Tier fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $2.6 million; " Western New York fire departments would be shortchanged by approximately $3.9 million.

[Please see attached report for countybycounty breakdowns and listings of how much each county has received from the program since 2001.]

Schumer urged the Congress and the White House to bolster the Administration's proposal by sending the full $900 million promised to fire departments by Congress including approximately $16 million more to upstate New York than is in the current proposal. "If ever our local fire departments needed and deserved an infusion of cash from the federal government, that time is now," Schumer said. "Budget gaps continue to strain departments, and the burden on local fire departments is becoming too much to bear. Add to that the heightened alert our first responders are on because of the war, and this attempt to stiff our fire departments makes even less sense."

Schumer helped create the original Grants to Firefighters Program, cosponsoring legislation in 2001 that led to its establishment. He also played a central role in preventing the Bush Administration from eliminating funding for the program from the 2001 budget.

Attached is Schumer's report with countybycounty breakdowns and listings of how much each county has received from the program since 2001.



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