02.19.18

STANDING WITH JOHNSON CITY FIREFIGHTERS, SCHUMER LAUNCHES A MAJOR EFFORT TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR FIREFIGHTER GRANT PROGRAM; SENATOR SAYS CONGRESS MUST INCREASE FEDERAL INVESTMENT INTO POPULAR GRANT PROGRAM TO HELP ENSURE CASH-STRAPPED FIRE DEPARTMENTS, LIKE THOSE IN THE SOUTHERN TIER, HAVE THE FIREFIGHTERS THEY NEED TO KEEP COMMUNITIES SAFE

Senator Says Johnson City And Many Communities In The Southern Tier Depend On Fully Staffed Departments To Keep Up With 911 Fire Emergencies, But The Federal Funding Available For Fire Departments Has Not Kept Up With This Need 

Senator Calls For More Funds To Bring Firefighter Grant Program Into The 21st Century; Staffing Needs of Fire Departments, Like Johnson City Fire Department In Broome County, Are Far Outpacing Available Resources

Schumer To Feds: With More Funds Available Under Budget Deal, It Is Time To  Increase Funding For Crucial Firefighter Grants 

Standing with members of the Village of Johnson City Fire Department, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major effort to not only increase funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program but also to support Johnson City’s forthcoming application for federal funding. Schumer said SAFER Grants help localities in Broome County and throughout the Southern Tier increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters available in their communities. Schumer said this grant program is extremely important to local fire departments in Broome County that are already strapped for cash and pledged to work with his colleagues in the Senate to provide more resources to the brave men and women who keep our communities safe.

“We owe it to our brave firefighters – who risk their lives every day to protect our communities and deserve to have the staff needed to do their jobs safely and effectively. Soon Johnson City will be welcoming a new pharmacy school, new apartments and other redevelopment projects and it will be critical that it has a fully staffed fire department to protect future students, residents and business owners,” said Senator Schumer. “I will be working with my colleagues throughout the appropriations process to try to allocate more funding to this vital program that enables our local fire departments in Broome County and across Upstate New York to have enough of the best and the bravest firefighters to serve their communities. I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to our fire departments – so I’ll be working double-time to keep our fire departments fully staffed and our communities safe.”

Schumer explained the SAFER grant program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments' abilities to comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association.

The SAFER grant program has been extremely helpful to the Johnson City Fire Department’s ability to recruit and maintain firefighters.  Schumer said Johnson City has been a recipient of 2 SAFER Grants in the last 6 years, with the most recent being in 2016, that Schumer joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to announce. This $797,990 SAFER grant enabled the department to hire 5 new firefighters and allowed them to keep their second fire station open. Looking forward, the department needs to maintain its staff of 34 to address current needs and be prepared for the development and growth associated with the Binghamton University Health Science Campus. To do so it will be applying for a new SAFER grant, and Schumer has pledged his full support and effort for their forthcoming application. Schumer said that increasing funding to the SAFER Grant Program will help bring the program in line with the needs of departments like Johnson City and ensure that adequate resources are available to fund applications like theirs and others across New York.

The SAFER program provides funding for the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters, as well as the hiring of new firefighters for career departments. Schumer said fire department budgets around New York State are strapped for funding as it is, and that is why he has pledged to work with his Senate Colleagues to increase funding to this grant program. Funding for the SAFER grant program has remained essentially flat in recent years; according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal agency that administers the program, only 14.6% of fire departments that applied for SAFER in Fiscal Year 2016 received a grant. Schumer said these federal firefighter programs are a great way to provide vital funding for staffing, and safety upgrades without passing a heavy burden along to taxpayers. In 1999, Schumer was one of the original group of Senators who created this federal grant program for fire services for the first time.

Johnson City Fire Department is a professional department with a staff of 34 that capably protects a population of 19,089 within Broome County. As a participant in the New York State Fire Mobilization and Mutual Aid Plan, they regularly provide mutual aid to the closest 8 fire departments in the Southern Tier and often are the recipients as well.  In 2015, they provided mutual aid on 12 occasions and received it on 6 occasions. The important role of fire departments has been underscored in the last decade with major floods events associated with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that devastated the region. Fire departments are often the first responders to these natural disasters, and having a fully staffed department could prove invaluable in instances like these, making the SAFER grant all the more critical to the safety of the residents protected by this department.

Broome County is currently in the midst of a major redevelopment effort. Binghamton University is nearing the completion of its Health Science Complex in the heart of the village.  The first phase, the Pharmacy School is slated to open in the fall of 2018, with over 50 new faculty members and 380-400 students expected to move into the town. The relocation of the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing will also bring hundreds more into the area. Additionally, the proposed renovation of two former warehouses, previously owned by the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company to house over 100 apartments and many more development projects in discussion will add hundreds of new full-time residents to the village center.  These exciting plans are a tremendous opportunity for the Village of Johnson City, the Town of Union and all of Broome County. But, this growth and expansion also means additional responsibility for the Johnson City Fire Department and underscores why these federal funds are critical to ensuring adequate coverage of all that falls within their jurisdiction.

Schumer was joined by Village of Johnson City Firefighters, Fire Department Chief Rob Jacyna, Village of Johnson City Mayor Greg Deemie, Village of Johnson City Trustees Bruce King and Clark Giblin. Broome County Deputy County Executive Kevin McManus, Broome County Legislator Michael Sopchak along with members of the Johnson City Fire Department.

Jason Garnar, Broome County Executive said: "I want to thank Senator Schumer for his continued efforts to support our fire departments in Broome County. The Senator recognizes the importance of SAFER grants and knows how our departments in the county depend on them. These funds are crucial in helping staff our fire departments with trained firefighters and providing necessary resources to keep our communities safe."

"The SAFER grant has been vital towards maintaining our ability to protect our community and keep our citizens safe. We are a much smaller department than we were even just ten years ago, and we go out on more calls than ever before. We appreciate Senator Schumer's continued support for our department and departments like ours across New York," said Rob Jacyna, Chief of the Johnson City Fire Department.

Schumer has long fought to secure the kind of funding needed to keep fire departments across New York well-equipped and adequately staffed. Schumer said that, over the years, these successful programs have provided funding to hundreds of volunteer and professional fire departments in towns across New York. Since their inception in 1999, fire grants have brought over $300 million to volunteer and career fire departments across Upstate New York.

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