Pascrell, Menendez Call for More Federal Funding for Firefighters
Lawmakers announce major federal investment in Paterson Fire Department
Paterson, NJ, July 13, 2015
PATERSON, NJ –Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez were joined by local firefighters in calling for a greater commitment from Congress to support firefighters and reverse the impact of sequestration cuts on public safety. The lawmakers also announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a $7.5 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to the Paterson Fire Department to hire 49 new firefighters.
“Real homeland security starts at home, so no matter what our budget environment is like, we must continue to support the firefighters and first responders who sacrifice so much to keep us safe,” said Pascrell, who was a prime author and mover of both the SAFER Act and the FIRE (Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement) Act. “Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans are continuing to ask far too many of our firefighters to risk their lives in our defense every day, with insufficient staffing, inadequate training and obsolete equipment. We have an obligation to provide them the necessary resources to perform their jobs as safely and effectively as possible.”
“There are austerity-mongers in Congress who would let our first responders make-due with what they have—leave positions vacant and old, out-of-date equipment in place—and not do what needs to be done to maximize community safety and the safety of our firefighters,” said Menendez. “Our first responders put their lives on the line each day and we must make certain that they have the resources they need to save lives. These grants are our way of saying thank you to our heroes, and they are our way of keeping our promise to every first responder and every community to make sure they have the best training and equipment they need to perform at the highest level.”
Rep. Pascrell and Sen. Menendez both signed FY16 appropriations request letters requesting funding to be restored for the SAFER and FIRE programs to the FY11 level of $810 million split evenly between the two programs. The Senate Appropriations Committee included $340 million for AFG and $340 million for SAFER in its FY16 DHS appropriations bill that was marked up in June - $130 million less than requested.
Just this week, the House Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to markup the DHS FY16 appropriations bill, which is also funded below requests made by Rep. Pascrell and Sen. Menendez.
Federal funds to local fire departments are awarded through two main programs. Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG), part of the FIRE program, makes direct grants to fire departments to purchase equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, and other firefighting and fire prevention activities. It also funds Fire Prevention and Safety Grants which are used for fire awareness and prevention activities, as well as fire safety related research. The SAFER program makes grants to local fire departments to assist in the hiring of firefighters.
In total, DHS has awarded Paterson nine FIRE grants since 2001 totaling $2.5 million to assist with the purchase of equipment. In 2009, Paterson was awarded $4.5 million for the construction of a new firehouse through the Firefighters Station Construction Grant funded through the Recovery Act, which was officially opened earlier this year.