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Schumer-Created Programs— AFG & SAFER—Are Critical Funding Streams To Help Directly Staff And Equip Upstate NY Departments — Programs Have Already Delivered $682 Million But Now They’re At Risk Of Total Elimination

Schumer Launches Push To Save Both Vital Firefighter Programs Set To Run Out In 2023

Schumer: It’s Time To Put On Our Boots, Throw Some Cold Water On These Cuts, & Rescue NY Fire Department Funding

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed the main federal firefighter funding programs, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program, are at risk of being eliminated, endangering millions in funding for Upstate New York Fire Departments. Schumer is an original creator – and staunch defender – of both fire department support programs.


Schumer warned that, “Over the last 20 years, these programs have delivered nearly $700 million in federal funding to NY firefighters and first responders, but if new legislation doesn’t pass, fire departments will not be able to access this funding in 2024.”


Yesterday, the Senate introduced the Fire Grants and Safety Act to reauthorize appropriations for the grant programs until 2030, and Schumer said he is now launching an all-out push to ensure Upstate fire departments can continue to receive the federal support they need to purchase the lifesaving equipment and hire new firefighters to keep our firefighters and communities safe.


“Upstate New York’s firefighters are heroes who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe, we cannot let the critical programs that provide them the support they need simply go up in smoke. From our rural communities in the North Country and Southern Tier to our major cities from Buffalo to Albany, fire departments need to have access to this federal funding now more than ever,” 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 programs. That is money for new fire trucks, better equipment, and to hire more firefighters in the Upstate communities that need them most. I’ve fought my whole career to bring more support to our brave firefighters, every day they save lives and I promise that I will not stop holding congressional feet to the fire until we pass this bill and save this federal lifeline for our New York fire departments and first responders.”


Schumer originally created the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program in 1999, which later expanded to also include the Staffing for Adequate Fire 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. For example, a modern hose fire truck can cost well over $500,000, and due to the extreme nature of the job, equipment can often become damaged and need to be replaced at enormous cost.


Schumer said if these programs were to be eliminated, as funding is only authorized through this year and FEMA has to entirely shutdown operations next year without new legislation reauthorizing the programs, firefighters would be left without federal support to cover these costs. Since the start of these programs in 2002, the grants have delivered nearly $700 million in federal funding to NY firefighters, including over $23 million in federal funding last year alone. The senator explained that means millions of dollars that Upstate NY firefighters count on every year could be ripped away if immediate action isn’t taken, which is why he said he is launching an all-out push to save these programs.


Specifically, the Fire Grants and Safety Act would reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration, the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program through FY2030. The bill also extends the sunset for both SAFER and AFG from 2024 to 2032. The bill would increase the authorization for the U.S. Fire Administration by about $20 million, while maintain the authorized funding level for SAFER and AFG at $750 million.


Schumer said that the AFG and SAFER grants have positively benefited fire departments in every corner of Upstate New York. Schumer highlighted some of these major federal awards below, which if the programs were to cease, would mean lifesaving equipment and the hundreds of NY firefighters that have been hired thanks to this funding would never have happened. You can find a comprehensive list of New York’s recent AFG awards here and SAFER awards here.

For example:


In the Capital Region:

o   Last year, the Troy and Saratoga Springs fire departments received nearly $8 million to hire 30 new firefighters.

o   Last year, the Schenectady Fire Department received $417,032 to purchase personal radios for all their firefighters.

o   In 2018, the Albany Fire Department over $426K to purchase a new state-of-the-art mobile fire simulator trailer, allowing AFD and its regional partners to administer its own hands-on emergency training.


In Western New York:

o   Just last month, the Jamestown Fire Department received $1,816,201 to hire 8 new firefighters and $284,291 to purchase new radios and a rope bailout system.

o   In 2019, the Buffalo Fire Department received nearly $10 million to hire new 50 new firefighters.

o   In 2021, the Niagara Falls Fire Department received $314,718 to purchase 36 new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) for firefighters.


In the North Country:

o   Just last month, the West Potsdam Volunteer Fire Department received $106,666 to replace 14 SCBA devices.  

o   In 2018, the City of Watertown Fire Rescue received $561,202 to hire four new firefighters.

o   In 2016, the Gouverneur Volunteer Rescue Squad received $80,000 to purchase three cardiac monitoring devices for their ambulances.


In Central New York:

o   Just last month, the City of Fulton fire department received $1,062,804 to hire 4 new firefighters.

o   In 2021, the Auburn Fire Department received $1,512,662 38 to hire 5 new firefighters and purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses

o   Since 2016, the Syracuse Fire Department has received over $5 million to hire 28 new firefighters.

o   In 2015, the Fleming Volunteer Fire Department in Cayuga County received $546,429 to purchase a new fire truck.


In the Finger Lakes:

o   In 2018, the East Rochester Volunteer Fire Department received more than $264,000 for a new radio system.

o   In 2018, the Henrietta Fire District and the Brighton Fire District received $1,339,127 to hire new firefighters.

o   In 2014, the Rochester Fire Department received $328,500 to purchase a new advanced, life-like training system for firefighters.


In the Mohawk Valley:

o   In 2018, the Utica Fire Department received $500,000 to purchase a new fire truck, replacing one that was nearly 30-years old.

o   In 2017, the City of Rome Fire Department will receive $300,955 to purchase 78 new sets of fire protection gear to prevent the risk of cancer.


In the Southern Tier:

o   Last year, the City of Norwich received $150,975 to train their firefighters to the level of paramedics.

o   In 2019, the Ithaca fire department received $169,730 to upgrade their exhaust extraction in their fire houses to help prevent cancer.

o   In 2016, the Town of Binghamton Volunteer Fire Company Inc. received $222,620 to purchase a new fire engine to replace the previous, which was over 20 years old.


In the Hudson Valley:

o   Just last month, the City of New Rochelle Fire Department received $1,679,796 to hire 6 new firefighters.

o   In 2020, the City of Yonkers Fire Department received $11,580,930 to hire 30 additional firefighters.

o   In 2019, the Monticello Joint Fire District in Sullivan County received $268,809.52 to upgrade 40 SCBA devices.

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.