07.25.06

Schumer Visits Malone Fire Department To Launch New Effort To Save Federal Fire Grant Program

Grant Program Has Sent Franklin County Fire Departments $1.7 Million Since 2001 But Program Now Slated To Be GuttedAssistance To Firefighters Grants Fund Life-Saving Equipment & Training To Departments Struggling to Stay Afloat Schumer To Detail Plan To Restore Full FundingSenator To Be Joined by Malone Mayor and Local Fire Fighters

New York fire departments could lose out on $31 million for equipment, training, and vehicles under a new federal budget proposal, US Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today. Schumer unveiled his grassroots plan to restore full funding for Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (also known as FIRE grants) that has provided fire departments throughout New York $102 million since it began in 2001 but is now slated for severe cuts. Since 2001, Franklin County Fire Departments have netted more than $1.7 million in aid, with the Malone FD receiving more than $80,000.

New Yorks firefighters risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe and sound, Schumer said. We must do everything we can to give them the tools they need to protect us and keep our communities safe. We funded this bill because it can cost over $4,000 just to outfit a firefighter and up to $500,000 for a modern fire truck. People in small towns and big towns deserve the most modern firefighting equipment. We need to restore funding to this program and I'm going to fight to make sure we do just that.

Schumer is touring fire houses across the state and meeting with fire chiefs to drum up support for the FIRE grants program and highlight the specific needs of Upstate New York fire departments. At Schumer's urging, fire departments across New York have taken advantage of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, and used funds for hiring additional firefighting personnel; specialized emergency response training; the creation of wellness and fitness programs for firefighters; equipment and facility upgrades; new fire trucks; and fire prevention programs. These grants are distributed through the Department of Homeland Securitys Office of Domestic Preparedness and are a main component of the federal governments efforts to aid local first responders. The Malone Fire Department has received $80,136 in FIRE Grants since 2001 and has used the bulk of the funding to purchase an exhaust system for the firehouse.

For Fiscal Year 2007, Congress has authorized $1 billion for the program, $707 million more than the $293 million included in the Administrations budget proposal. The Administrations proposal of only $293 million is 46% less than last years appropriation of $542 million. Schumer said that if the federal government fails to fully fund the authorization, the impact on already crunched local fire department budgets in New York will be exacerbated dramatically next year. Based on proposed cuts, Franklin County Fire Departments stand to lose $570,000.

Because of its dramatic success in improving fire safety, Congress has raised the amount of money authorized for the program from $100 million for FY2001 to $950 million in FY 2006 and $1 billion in FY 2007. The program has been consistently underfunded, getting only $542 million in FY 2006. This is the third year in a row that the Administration has proposed cutting the program. Last year the Administration proposed cutting the program to $500 million from $650 million in FY 2005. Congress restored funding to $542 million, but this still fell short of the $950 million authorized for FY2006.

In response, Schumer is launching a grassroots campaign, sending petitions to every fire department in the state, asking firefighters to join his call to restore funding. Schumer said since this is a program that puts lifesaving equipment in the hands of firstresponders, mobilizing firefighters across the state could be an effective way to show how critical these grants are to localities that need them.

Schumer also said today that he would join with Senate colleagues later this year to support an amendment to the budget that would restore the entire $1 billion to the FIRE grants program. Senator Schumer and some of his colleagues are sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for full funding of the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program.

Schumer helped create the original Grants to Firefighters Program, cosponsoring legislation in 2001 that led to its establishment. This program was passed with bipartisan support including Senator Chris Dodd (DCT,) Senator John McCain (RAZ,) Senator Susan Collins (RME,) and many others. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was established to provide funding to career and volunteer fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services providers to help with the rising costs of equipment, vehicles and training. However, soon after the programs establishment, Schumer played a central role in preventing the Bush Administration from eliminating funding for the program from the 2001 budget. Schumer also cosponsored the 2004 reauthorization, which set full funding levels for the program at $1 billion in FY 2007.



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