WASHINGTON - Following President Obama's remarks today on the looming sequester, Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ-09) released the following statement on the potential devastating effects mandatory budget cuts will have on first responders. Rep. Pascrell was a prime author and mover of both the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Act and the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) 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.
"The fact that sequestration will eliminate millions of dollars in funding for our first responders is intolerable,” stated Pascrell, who introduced the original FIRE Act in March 1999. "I've fought my entire career in Congress to ensure first responders have the resources they need to keep our communities safe, and that local communities have financial assistance to help keep safety personnel on the job. You can bet I am prepared to go to the mat on behalf of these brave men and women.
"As a former mayor, I know how critical federal funding is to our local fire houses and the severe impact elimination would have on their response to disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Resolving the current fiscal situation will require a balanced approach of both spending cuts and increase in revenue, not an increased burden on America's middle class. The bottom line is across the board cuts will hinder job growth and jeopardize our fragile economy. The House must put aside partisan politics and reach a compromise to end this senseless lurching from crisis to crisis."
Rep. Pascrell saw the FIRE Act signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Since the FIRE Act and SAFER were initially authorized, in FY2001 and 2005, respectively, they have provided more than $8 billion in grants to local fire departments, to hire approximately 18,500 firefighters. From FY2001-FY2010 New Jersey received nearly $200 million in grants to hire approximately 740 firefighters.
The AFG program makes direct grants to fire departments to purchase equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, and other fire fighting 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 January, the City of Paterson was awarded almost $7 million from the Department of Homeland Security to keep 40 firefighters on the job. Last September, the Clifton Fire Department was able to rehire eight firefighters as a result of a $1.3 million SAFER grant.
During the 1990s, shortfalls in state and local budgets, coupled with increased responsibilities of local fire departments, led many in the fire community to call for additional financial support from the federal government. Although federally funded training programs existed through the National Fire Academy, there was no dedicated federal program exclusively for firefighters that provided funding directly to local fire departments to help address a wide variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related needs.