Pascrell Landmark National FIRE Grant Program will Get $360 Million for 2002
Amount is huge increase in federal dollars for nation's firefighters
WASHINGTON - Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8th), the first Member of Congress to champion the pressing need for federal grants for local firefighters, announced that President George W. Bush has signed into law today an additional $210 million in federal funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Program, bringing the total for Fiscal Year 2002 to $360 million.
The Assistance to Firefighters Program was created by Pascrell's landmark Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act legislation, first enacted in October of 2000, and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The $360 million for Fiscal Year 2002 represents an increase of 260% from last year, which Pascrell lobbied to secure and stressed was sorely needed.
"The tragic events of September 11th reminded us all of the unwavering bravery and dedication of our firefighters," Pascrell added. "With an increase of $260 million for this program over last year, we honor that commitment and help thousands of local fire departments achieve their vital missions."
"This greatly increased level of funding is an enormous boost for our first responders, who deserve nothing less than the full partnership of the federal government," Pascrell said. "For too long, the federal government was AWOL when it came to assisting local fire departments and their communities. Thanks to the FIRE Act, those days are over."
The President today signed the Fiscal Year 2002 Defense Appropriations Bill, attached to which was an Emergency Supplemental spending measure that included the $210 million for the program. This funding is in addition to the $150 million already approved for the Assistance to Firefighters Program as part of the Fiscal year 2002 VA-HUD Appropriations bill, and brings the total for this year to $360 million.
Although the FIRE Act was initially authorized for up $300 million for Fiscal Year 2002, funding for the program was slated to be eliminated by the Bush Administration. It was not included in the President's initial Fiscal Year 2002 Budget blueprint, submitted to Congress in February of last year, with the Administration stating that it was an inappropriate use of federal funds. Following lobbying by Pascrell and a bipartisan group of Members, the Administration relented and included in its formal budget an authorization for $100 million, which was equal to the prior year's funding level.
FEMA recently completed year one of the Pascrell FIRE Act grant program. During Fiscal Year 2001, the Agency awarded 1,855 grants to local departments across the country, totaling $100 million.
36 fire departments throughout New Jersey secured grants in year one. They included:
Paterson -- $244,933
Montclair -- $4,500
Verona -- $12,078
Clifton -- $130,824
Wayne -- $29,700
The Pascrell measure was first signed into law on October 30, 2000 as part of the Fiscal Year 2001 Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report. Introduced in March of 1999, is the first comprehensive national legislation dedicated to meet the special needs of America's 32,000 volunteer, paid and part-paid fire departments.
"Not only will these funds improve safety for both firefighters and the public, but it will also deliver much-needed property tax relief to our local taxpayers," added Pascrell. "Every dollar that the federal government puts toward better training and equipment for firefighters, the less money residents will have to spend in taxes."
In the first year, grants were available in the following six categories:
- Training of firefighter personnel;
- Establishment of wellness and fitness programs for firefighter personnel;
- Purchase of fire-fighting vehicles, including fire trucks;
- Purchase of fire-fighting equipment, including equipment for communications and monitoring;
- Purchase of personnel protective gear;
- Funding of fire prevention programs.
Before the Pascrell FIRE Act, federal spending for firefighters totaled only $32 million in l999.
"With these grants, we fulfill our obligation to those who make the ultimate commitment to us every single day," Pascrell stated. "I said from the first day this bill was introduced that the federal government had to stop merely paying lip service to our firefighters at holiday parades -- without putting our money where our mouth the rest of the year. We are certainly doing that now."