17 percent cuts to fire department grantsBy BILL BLEYER
June 16, 2011
Federal grant programs that have brought more than $4.3 million to Long Island fire departments in the past two years face 17 percent cuts under legislation passed by the House of Representatives, Sen. Charles Schumer warned Wednesday.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the recently passed 2012 House Homeland Security Appropriations bill would result in cuts in the Assistance to Firefighters grants and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants that fund the purchase of new equipment, training and hiring of new staff in volunteer and paid departments.
The two grant programs would be cut by $140 million from this year's $810 million under the House legislation. In the past two years, 16 Suffolk departments have received $2,722,559 in grants along with 13 in Nassau that received $1,652,956.
Schumer pledged to fight the cuts in the Senate, saying many county and local governments are strapped for cash and the proposed funding levels could put public safety at risk.
"Firefighters are our first line of defense in an emergency, but just as we count on firefighters to help protect us, they count on us to provide them with the funding they need to hire new firefighters, buy equipment, and provide the best possible training," Schumer said.
Robert McConville of Selden, second vice president of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, said that even a 17 percent cut in the grant programs would make a noticeable difference to local fire departments. "Fire departments in both counties have received grants for equipment and training or recruitment and retention. These are very important programs that help support our state's 95,000 volunteer firefighters."
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he voted against the bill primarily because of 50 percent cuts in homeland security grants to New York City and Long Island but also because of the fire department grant cuts. "Fire departments throughout the state have become part of our first line of defense in the post-9/11 world," he said. "Cuts to these programs are shortsighted."
Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also Wednesday announced that the Huntington Manor Fire District will receive $210,000 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.