SCHUMER: WITH LIFESAVING FED FIRE DEPARTMENT FUNDING AT RISK OF ELIMINATION, PROGRAMS THAT HAVE PROVIDED OVER $5.6 MILLION TO SOUTHERN TIER FIREFIGHTERS IN PAST THREE YEARS, INCLUDING $700K IN CHENANGO COUNTY ALONE, SENATOR REVEALS PLAN TO PASS A NEW BILL BY THE END OF THIS MONTH TO SAVE THESE PROGRAMS
Village of Oxford Fire Department Just Awarded $226K, Schumer Sounds Alarm Saying It Is Critical Funding Like This Is Exactly Why We Need To Save The AFG & SAFER Programs That Will Run Out Without Fed Action
As Majority Leader, Schumer Has Shepherded Legislation To Save These Programs To The Senate Floor And Now Reveals His Push To Pass This Bill This Month And Show Who Stands With Firefighters
Schumer: It’s Time To Put On Our Boots, Throw Some Cold Water On These Cuts, & Rescue NY Fire Department Funding
Today, standing at the City of Norwich Fire Department, with the main federal firefighter funding programs – the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program – at risk of being totally eliminated this year, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer revealed his plan to rally support to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act of 2023 in the Senate by the end of this month to save these programs. Schumer also announced that the Village of Oxford Fire Department has this week been awarded a $226,200 SAFER grant to support recruitment and retention activities. The senator said it is critical funding like this in communities like Chenango County is why he fighting to protect this vital lifeline for Upstate New York’s firefighters.
“From small, rural communities like those here in Chenango County, to cities like Binghamton, the AFG and SAFER programs are lifelines that have delivered over $5.6 million in federal funding to firefighters across the Southern Tier in just the past three years; we can’t let this lifeline go up in smoke. These programs provide desperately needed federal dollars for new fire trucks, better equipment, and to hire more firefighters in the Upstate communities that need them most,” said Senator Schumer. “As majority leader, I am officially announcing that I have put the Fire Grants and Safety Act on the Senate floor, and shepherded it through the initial hurdles, priming the Senate to pass this life-saving legislation when we return in two weeks. I am calling on my colleagues to join me in passing a clean bill this month, our firefighters have waited long enough. 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.”
“Thank you Senator Schumer for your steadfast support of first responders and for fighting for continued funding of the AFG and SAFER grant programs. These programs are pivotal to supporting fire departments and EMS agencies nationwide, with tens of thousands having benefited from federal investment since 1999. Locally, the Norwich Fire Department was the fortunate recipient of an AFG Grant in 2022. We used the funds to purchase personal protective equipment gear for 18 of our firefighters and increase the EMS level of care for 6 employees from EMT Basic to EMT Paramedic, improving the level of service we are able to provide to the public we serve,” said Chief Jan Papelino, City of Norwich Fire Department. “Some of the previously awarded AFG projects the Norwich Fire Department has benefited from include a system to minimize the diesel fume exhaust within the station in an effort to reduce the carcinogens firefighters breath, the replacement of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used in Immediately Dangerous to Health or Life atmospheres, and new UHF radio equipment which significantly improved on-scene emergency communications. The importance to emergency services, both fire and EMS, for the continued funding of the AFG and SAFER grant programs cannot be stressed enough!”
"The AFG and SAFER grant programs have been a lifeline for the fire service all across New York State. There are many municipalities and fire districts that depend on these funds to provide lifesaving, property preservation, and fire prevention educational services in the communities they protect,” said Chief Ron Martin, Village of Oxford Fire Department. “The stark realization is that without this funding, some departments will hang on for a while, others will close, and the ones left will have to absorb the burden, including higher costs and longer response times, putting lives and property in danger, not only for who we protect but for our emergency personnel. Thank you Senator Schumer for your leadership protecting these vital programs and for your support of emergency responders who put their life on the line everyday across NYS and our great country."
“We appreciate and fully support Senator Schumer’s efforts to continue this very important funding stream for our local departments. Both the SAFER and Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) programs have helped our local fire departments to fund large projects that would typically be a huge financial burden to our local tax payers. Through federal investment, many of our local departments have been awarded thousands of dollars to upgrade self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA’s), firefighter turnout gear, auto extrication equipment, and even hire personnel,” said Matt Beckwith, Chenango County Fire Coordinator. “Chenango County is a rural community with an aging population and a low tax base. All of our agencies that have been awarded these grants were able to purchase this equipment to replace their old, outdated and even unsafe equipment with little to no impact on the local communities. Without this important funding opportunity, many of our local, rural departments would not have had the opportunity to update their existing and purchase new equipment, to help save lives within their local jurisdictions.”
"I want to thank Leader Schumer for once again having our backs and being a champion for firefighters and the fire service. These federal grant programs have delivered millions of dollars to departments and municipalities to get us the equipment and staffing levels that we need to respond to fires and countless other emergency calls as safely and efficiently as possible. We appreciate Leader Schumer bringing this bill to the floor of the Senate so that these lifesaving grant programs might continue to help our firefighters and our citizens,” said Sam Fresina, President, NYS Professional Firefighters Association.
Schumer originally helped create 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, especially in smaller and more rural counties. Fire departments, like 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 while keeping firefighters safe. For example, a modern pumper truck can cost well over $750,000, while ladder trucks routinely cost over $1 million. And it costs roughly $12,000 to outfit a firefighter in protective gear and breathing apparatus. Due to the extreme nature of the job, equipment can often become damaged and need to be replaced at enormous cost, especially for smaller communities like those in Chenango County.
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 next year.”
Schumer said that barring action through legislation, these programs are only authorized for funding through Fiscal Year 2023, meaning FEMA would be unable to accept any additional funding requests for next year. The programs sunset next year, meaning all the of technical assistance that FEMA provides for ongoing grants would also cease next year. Since the start of these programs in 2002, the grants have delivered nearly $700 million in federal funding to NY firefighters. Schumer said that losing this funding would be felt especially hard for Southern Tier firefighters, who have received over $5.6 million in federal funding through these programs in just the past three years.
Schumer said if the programs were to cease, that would mean lifesaving equipment and the hundreds of NY firefighters that have been hired, or recruited in the case of volunteer departments, thanks to this federal investment might never have happened. Schumer also announced that the Village of Oxford Fire Department has been awarded a SAFER grant in the amount of $226,200 to support recruitment and retention activities, including the development of a marketing program to enhance the department’s engagement in the community. The Village of Oxford Fire Department’s objective is to recruit up to 17 new members over the next 5 years. Funds will also be used to support the acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) for new volunteers brought in through this program. This federal funding comes after the City of Norwich Fire Department received an AFG award of $150,975 in 2022.
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 Fiscal Year (FY) 2030. 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 maintaining the authorized funding level for SAFER and AFG at $750 million, each.
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.