PATERSON – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a new federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Act grant to the Paterson Fire Department in the amount of $6,975,860. The grant will allow the Paterson Fire Department, which faced the strong possibility of major reductions in their force in the wake of severe funding cuts at the state and local level, to retain 40 firefighters who would have been laid off and hire 9 new firefighters for positions lost through attrition and previously unfilled. The grant to Paterson is the third largest SAFER award made nationally this fiscal year.
“This is exactly why we wrote the SAFER Act because without it today Paterson would be facing a significantly depleted force and it would be the people of this great city who would have to suffer,” said Pascrell, who was a prime author and mover of both the SAFER Act and the FIRE (Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement) Act which together have provided $8.68 billion in federal funding since fiscal year 2001 for local fire departments to have the staffing, equipment and training necessary to protect the public. “Adequate staffing for fire departments has a direct correlation to their response times and when you are talking about every second of time making a difference in a fire emergency whether or not you have those firefighters at your service can literally mean the difference between life and death. I am proud of the work we have done in Congress to bolster public safety and you can be assured that I will continue to lead the charge against those who may seek to undermine these effective programs.”
“This major federal grant will help ensure that the Paterson Fire Department has the staffing it needs to keep local neighborhoods safe,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg, the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the SAFER program. “I applaud the Paterson Fire Department for putting together a strong application and for courageously keeping the Silk City safe. Firefighters risk their lives to protect our families every day, and we will keep working to provide Paterson's first responders with the staffing and resources they need.”
" When we realized where we were in terms of the budget and what it would mean for our staffing levels going forward we picked up the phone and called Congressman Pascrell," said Paterson Fire Chief Michael Postorino, who will now lead a fully staffed department of 330 professional firefighters. "He helped us from the start with our SAFER grant application and then he went to work as our strongest advocate. As the Fire Chief losing even one firefighter is a real problem, but if we had lost 49 that would have been a true disaster."
"Congressman Pascrell has done it again," said Carlos Pagan, President of the Paterson FMBA (Fireman's Mutual Benevolent Association). "In 2005 he secured a SAFER grant to help Paterson hire 53 firefighters and today he brought home a grant large enough to keep 40 firefighters on the force and bring on another 9. Without this grant we would be facing the same kinds of drastic public safety layoffs which have affected cities across the nation to the detriment of response times for fire emergencies."
The Paterson Fire Department has now received $19.3 million in total from the federal government since 2001. With Pascrell's support Paterson was previously awarded $6.4 million in a 2005 SAFER grant which allowed the department to hire 53 firefighters. Pascrell also helped secure seven FIRE grants since 2001 for Paterson totaling $1.4 million. 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.
From FY2001-FY2010 New Jersey received nearly $200 million in SAFER grants. In total, New Jersey has received $25 million in SAFER grants so far in FY 2012.