09.15.20

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCE MASSIVE GRANT – $11.5 MILLION IN FEMA FUNDING FOR YONKERS FIRE DEPARTMENT TO HIRE 30 ADDITIONAL FIREFIGHTERS

Funding Will Be Used To Hire 30 Yonkers Firefighters Saving the City & Department Millions in Overtime Costs

Senators Say Yonkers Firefighters Have Worked Tirelessly Throughout The COVID-19 Pandemic, Clocking Over 6.5M In Overtime

Schumer, Gillibrand: Federal Funding Will Help Put Out Budget Fire Facing Yonkers Fire Department

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $11,580,930 in federal funding for the City of Yonkers Fire Department to hire 30 additional firefighters. The funding was allocated through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program.

Specifically, the Senators explained, Yonkers Fire Department will fill 20 currently vacant positions and staff an additional 10 positions left open due to long term medical leave. This federal funding will help to relieve some of the financial stress that Yonkers has experienced due to additional overtime costs resulting from staffing shortages, vacant positions, and long term medical leaves.   

“From the peak of the pandemic to normal times, our brave Yonkers firefighters are always on the front lines, risking their lives to protect their community,” said Senator Schumer. “These courageous first responders deserve all the federal support possible to help them do their jobs. I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to support our heroic firefighters, and I’m proud to deliver this funding so Yonkers Fire Department can hire 30 new desperately needed firefighters without bearing the financial stress.”

“New York’s first responders have worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe throughout the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As we enter fire season amidst a global pandemic, we must ensure our fire departments in Westchester have the resources needed to hire and retain firefighters. I will always fight to secure the funding our fire departments need to stay safe as they enter the line of duty.”

“Many thanks to Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the Department of Homeland Security for their commitment and advocacy of our Yonkers Fire Department,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. “This SAFER grant will support the hiring of 30 new firefighters over the next three years, saving Yonkers taxpayers $3 million a year. Now more than ever, we need to invest in our essential workers who are on the frontlines and this funding assures our City can support them as well as our current firefighters,” said Mike Spano, Mayor of the City of Yonkers.

“We are grateful that Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand were able to secure this critical funding for the Yonkers Firefighters. These federal dollars will help keep the Yonkers Fire Department whole and allow us to continue to provide the citizens of Yonkers with the premier fire and emergency response they deserve,” said Barry McGoey, President Yonkers Firefighters IAFF Local 628.

The funding comes as Yonkers Fire Department faces staffing vacancies from attrition, long term sick or injury leave, and absences due to COVID-19 collectively creating additional unexpected overtime costs over $6,500,000.00. The senators said that the federal funding announced today will be used to offset the need for additional overtime funding by expanding the Department to better serve the City of Yonkers.

After hearing from the city and the department in June, both senators asked DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and FEMA Acting Administrator Peter Gaynor to fully fund Yonkers' $11.5M proposal to hire 30 additional firefighters. The senators emphasized the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 in Yonkers, New York's fourth-largest city and one of the nation's first hot spots for the virus.

Senator Schumer’s letter to Secretary Wolf appears below:

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by Yonkers Fire Department (YFD) for funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants program.

Located in Westchester County, New York, Yonkers is the fourth largest city in New York State with 210,000 residents across 21 square miles. The YFD has faced several major impacts to their budget recently, from a 20% reduction in state aid to lost hotel and sales tax revenues, combined with increased overtime from staffing vacancies.

With new developments, an increase in population and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, YFD has seen a dramatic increase in call volume, along with new risks. Without SAFER Grant funding, YFD will be unable to maintain a modern, adequately trained and equipped fire department.

I applaud the Yonkers Fire Department for its foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my Grants Coordinator in my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.

Sincerely,

Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Administrator Gaynor appears below:

Dear Administrator Gaynor,

I write in support of the application submitted by the Yonkers Fire Department (YFD) for funding from Staffing for the Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program through Federal Emergency Management Agency. The requested funding will be used to hire and fund the employment of 30 new firefighters.

Serving Yonkers, the fourth largest city in the State of New York with a population of 210,000 and covering 21 square miles, YFD’s paid career firefighters respond to over 15,000 calls annually for fire and medical emergencies, search and rescue, and hazardous material response. A number of critical infrastructure lies within YFD’s covered area including seven miles of the most trafficked stretches of the New York Thruway; Hillview Reservoir which supplies water to New York City; two electrical transfer stations providing power to New York City and Westchester; and Amtrak’s only Southern Westchester station serving the Northeast’s busiest commuter rail line.

The requested funding will be used to hire 30 new firefighters, allowing YFD to maintain minimum staffing requirements for safe daily deployment. These new firefighter positions will ensure that YFD is able to respond to all fire, rescue and emergency situations in Yonkers, as well as mutual aid requests to neighboring communities as safely and effectively as possible. YFD is wholly funded through the City of Yonkers and relies on direct appropriations from the city’s budget. However, the city’s severe financial challenges prevents it from funding current and expected YFD firefighter vacancies that meet the original budgeted safe staffing level of 453 positions. Due to promotions, retirements, and medical leaves of absence – some of which are expected to result in members’ disability retirement -- YFD has a current uniform staffing shortfall of 16 percent.

I ask that you please give this application your full consideration. If you have any questions, or desire further information, please do not hesitate to contact my staff member, Claire Descamps, at (202) 224-4451.

Sincerely, 

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