By Lauren Halligan
The Record, Troy, N.Y.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer completed his 24th consecutive tour of all 62 New York counties on Monday with a visit to the Spa City, where he revealed that he is pushing for funding to provide upstate fire departments with the support they need to save lives and keep communities safe.
During his final tour stop for the year at Saratoga Springs Fire Station No. 1, Schumer was welcomed by local government officials and fire department leadership, who thanked him for securing funds for the Saratoga Springs Fire Department as it prepares to open a third station in 2023.
The Saratoga Springs Fire Department received the third largest Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant in New York state history — a total of $4 million — that will allow the department to hire 16 new firefighters.
The fourth largest grant of this kind was also awarded in the area to the Troy Fire Department, which received $3.6 million to hire 14 new firefighters.
“We’re really making good progress here in the Capital Region,” Schumer said on Monday morning while standing outside the local fire station.
This historic funding will help address fire department staffing shortages in the region, a press release from Schumer’s office said, noting that the senator also played an important role in delivering more than $1 million through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Program to the Troy Fire Department for paramedic training and Schenectady Fire Department for equipment.
Schumer originally created the AFG program in 1999, which later expanded to also included the SAFER Program and the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) program, from all he learned on his 62-county tour and meeting with fire departments across upstate New York.
The AFG and SAFER grant programs are administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to purchase essential equipment and help them increase the number of trained, front-line firefighters available in their communities. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that most closely address the program’s priorities and demonstrate financial need.
“This year alone, New York received over $23 million from these programs, and since its creation, our fire departments have received hundreds of millions. Saratoga Springs and Troy just received two of the largest federal awards in NY State history to hire dozens of new desperately needed firefighters — without local taxpayers bearing the financial stress — and this is the prime example of why I will always champion these programs,” Schumer said in the press release. “I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to support our brave firefighters, every day they save lives and I promise that I will not stop fighting to keep the funding flowing.”
2 N.Y. capital-area FDs to receive nearly $1M in U.S. grants to address staff shortages
Troy Fire Chief Eric McMahon: “This grant will fund the training of firefighters to the level of paramedic. This funding could not have come at a better time”
Looking ahead, Schumer is pushing for $370 million in the FY23 budget for each of the two major federal firefighter grant programs, a $10 million increase over the previous year.
Maintaining these programs and robust funding levels for years to come is a top priority for Schumer so fire departments can have the support they need as equipment costs increase.
Fire departments often face budget shortfalls and extremely high costs that mean they cannot purchase the modern equipment needed to combat emergencies and keep firefighters safe, the release said, explaining that the AFG and SAFER programs have provided extraordinary relief to fire departments, ensuring they can get the resources they need without financial burden.
“Helping our firefighters be safer and getting the money for the equipment they need — as well as for more firefighters so they’re not stretched too thin — makes a great deal of sense,” Schumer said on Monday, reminding all that firefighters risk their lives to help others. “This is a vital lifeline and we’re going to continue with it.”
Sam Fresina, president of the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association (IAFF) spoke highly of Schumer’s leadership.
“Firefighters across New York state and across our country could not have a better friend, a better partner, a better leader than our leader Senator Schumer,” Fresina said. “He has been on our side 24/7. He fights for every single member, whether it’s a small community or our biggest department in New York City. He’s been there and he continues to be there.”
Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino also expressed his appreciation to Schumer for “the hard work that he’s done to provide us with the resources to help us keep our city safe,” he said. “And, of course, thank you, Senator, for the work you do in Washington to keep our country safe and strong, and to keep us strong on a national and global level.”
Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim said that Schumer saved the best for last on his statewide tour for 2022, thanking him for the recent fire department funding and several other initiatives. “I can’t thank the senator enough for his leadership in America, and what he’s done for our community.”
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