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  • Writer's pictureJess Marciano

Gillibrand: Local Fire Depts need Federal Funding

5/15/2024

Many NY Fire Departments Are Using 20+ Year Old Gear; Funding Would Provide New Equipment, Fight Staffing Shortages

Last Year, Gillibrand Helped Deliver Over 200 Grants Totaling Nearly $50 Million To NY Fire Departments – But There Is Still More Need 

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a virtual press conference to announce her push to provide a boost in federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP) in the FY25 appropriations bill. The AFGP provides funding for local fire departments to purchase equipment and emergency vehicles and address staffing shortages. As many fire departments across New York State continue to rely on outdated equipment and struggle with staffing shortages, Gillibrand is pushing for additional federal funding for the AFGP to ensure firefighters have what they need to stay safe as they protect their communities.

Fire departments across our state are operating with outdated fire trucks and protective gear, and replacing it can cost millions of dollars that many of them just don’t have,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program provides federal funding to fill those gaps, allowing departments to buy new emergency response vehicles, personal protective gear, breathing apparatuses, infrared cameras, hazmat detection devices, and more. It also helps fire departments struggling with staffing shortages to hire or retain trained firefighters. Every year, I fight to include AFGP funding in the government spending bill and deliver money for hundreds of fire departments across New York State. This year, I’m calling for increased funding to address nationwide need. Firefighters put their lives on the line for us, and we owe it to them to provide the resources they need to do their jobs.” 

“Ensuring first responders have the best equipment and emergency vehicles is critically important to public safety. The FDNY is grateful to Senator Gillibrand for recognizing the needs of our firefighters and EMS members, and doing what she can to secure federal funding that will help keep our members, and the public, safe,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program offers multiple types of grants, including Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), which help fire departments acquire new emergency vehicles, protective gear, and equipment, and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), which help fire departments hire and retain trained firefighters to meet industry minimum standards and ensure 24-hour staffing. Last year, Gillibrand helped secure over 200 AFG and SAFER grants totaling nearly $50 million for fire departments across New York State. 

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Senate appropriators is available here and below: 

Dear Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, Chair Murphy, and Ranking Member Britt:

As you begin crafting the fiscal year (FY) 2025 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill, we urge that you include increased funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program. We appreciate the committee’s previous strong support of these vital programs, but were concerned to see the cuts levied against these vital programs in Fiscal Year 2024, as they make important investments in public safety in states and local jurisdictions throughout the country.

The AFG Program has strengthened public safety by providing much needed funding for infrared cameras, personal protective gear, hazmat detection devices, improved breathing apparatuses, interoperable communications systems, and much more. This equipment is critical to ensuring the safety of firefighters as they respond to emergencies and protect our communities. The cost of this equipment, however, continues to increase year after year, and demand for the AFG Program continues to significantly outpace available funding.

Similarly, the SAFER Grant Program provides much-needed funding for career and volunteer fire departments to hire, recruit, and retain firefighters. This program is critical because more than half of all career and volunteer fire departments in our nation do not have sufficient personnel to protect the public effectively. In order to bring our nation’s fire departments to the staffing levels needed to serve their communities and respond to emergencies, the SAFER Grant Program must be adequately funded.

The AFG and SAFER Programs are vital to firefighters across the country, and yet, the programs face a statutory sunset date of September 30, 2024. We urge Congress to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act (S. 870) to reauthorize these essential programs. Should the Fire Grants and Safety Act not be enacted prior to your drafting of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, we request that you include language to extend the sunset of AFG and SAFER for one year, until September 30, 2025.

We have an obligation to protect those who protect us by providing them with the necessary resources to perform their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. We urge you to help Congress meet that obligation by accounting for the increased needs of firefighters nationwide and providing increased funding for the AFG and SAFER programs in FY 2025. Thank you for your consideration of this request and your ongoing commitment to our nation’s firefighters.


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