Press Release from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $421,920 in federal funding for the City of Cortland to help recruit and train the next generation of firefighters. The funding was allocated through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program. Schumer is currently leading the charge to save these federal firefighting programs that are set to expire at the end of this year which delivered this funding to Cortland.
“From being on the frontline during Covid to fighting fires, our Cortland firefighters work non-stop keeping our communities safe. That is why when I heard our fire departments were struggling to keep up staffing, I promised to deliver the fed dollars to give our heroes the support they need. So I am proud to deliver this major over $400,000 federal boost so Cortland strengthen recruitment and give youth firsthand experience to help train the next generation of firefighters,” said Senator Schumer. “I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to support our brave firefighters and today’s funding will keep the Cortland Fire Department prepared to take on any emergency. I will not stop holding congressional feet to the fire until we pass the bill to save this federal lifeline for our New York fire departments and first responders so they can continue to tap this resource for years to come.”
“New York’s firefighters work tirelessly every day to protect our communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This funding will provide Cortland’s fire department with the resources it needs to recruit and maintain adequate staffing levels as it responds to emergency situations. I will continue fighting to ensure that New York’s fire departments have what they need when they enter the line of duty.”
“We appreciate Senator Schumer’s support and advocacy in securing this funding, as well as his work on the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response programs. These programs have had a tremendous impact locally by allowing the Cortland Fire Department to increase critical fire protection services in our community. The funding secured here today will increase safety for firefighters and residents by putting more firefighters on first arriving equipment,” said City of Cortland Chief of Fire Wayne Friedman.
“The Cortland Fire Department’s most valuable resource is its firefighters, and the bunk-in program was the start for one of the Department’s current leaders. Our Battalion Chief came to the Fire Department as part of the bunk-in program which is evidence of the programs value as well as value for our community,” said Mayor of Cortland Scott Steve.
Schumer and Gillibrand explained the funding will go towards allowing the City of Cortland to restart its “bunk in” program, which allows college age individuals to bunk at the fire station two nights each week in return for a stipend towards their housing costs. Historically, the program has been very successful for Cortland FD and there are currently a number of career firefighters who started as “bunkers,” including Captain Will Fox. This grant will also fund social media training, marketing training, and website redesign to help is better recruit volunteer firefighters, as well as improvements to program coordination and management.
Schumer originally created the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program in 1999, which later expanded to also include the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which funded Cortland’s grant today. Currently though, both the AFG and SAFER program are at risk of being eliminated, endangering millions in funding for Upstate New York Fire Departments.
Earlier this year, Schumer launched an all-out push to save these programs that are set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand are helping lead the charge to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act of 2023 which would reauthorize funding for the U.S. Fire Administration, the AFG, and SAFER Grant Program through FY2030. The bill also extends the sunset for both SAFER and AFG from 2024 to 2032. The bill would increase the authorization for the U.S. Fire Administration by about $20 million, while maintain the authorized funding level for SAFER and AFG at $750 million.
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.