Philly and Suburban Counties Stand to Lose Key Funding for Emergency Responders
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and local firefighters to call for the immediate reauthorization of programs that have provided firefighters in Philadelphia alone with over $4.2M in recent years to keep firefighters and the public safe.
The City of Philadelphia and suburban Philadelphia counties have benefited greatly from these programs, including the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FP&S). These programs that allow fire stations across the Philadelphia region to purchase life-saving equipment, meet staffing needs and conduct critical safety training will cease to exist without reauthorization.
“Every day brave firefighters across Southeastern Pennsylvania put their lives on the line for us, so making sure they have the equipment and personnel they need to do their job and stay safe must be one of Washington’s top priorities,” Senator Casey said. “These investments in our firefighters are essential, and Congress should act right away to reauthorize these programs.”
Reauthorizing these programs could help firefighters in Southeastern Pennsylvania purchase new equipment or vehicles, and maintain staffing levels so that they can respond to emergencies quickly and effectively. These programs have had a major impact across Pennsylvania.
Since 2003, Philadelphia has received more than $1.7 million through the AFG program to fund equipment purchases and firefighter training programs. The city has also received more than $2 million in FP&S grants for fire prevention and firefighter safety programs, including public education and research.
Other cities across Southeastern Pennsylvania benefit greatly from these programs as well. For example, emergency responders in the following cities have received over $7.4 million in AFG, SAFER and FP&S grants since 2003:
- Norristown: $272,269
- Pottstown: $309,765
- Media: $1,094,878
- City of Chester: $890,989
- West Chester: $1,060,442
- Coatesville: $1,301,304
- Bensalem: $1,705,954
- Doylestown: $768,321
Since the inception of the AFG program, fire companies across Pennsylvania have received more than $334 million – more than any other state – to purchase firefighting equipment, vehicles, and personal protective gear. Pennsylvania communities have also received more than $17 million in SAFER grants to maintain and improve firefighter staffing levels. These grants have helped communities remain safe despite budget cuts suffered during the economic downturn.
The SAFER grant program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments' abilities to comply with staffing, response and operational standards.
Currently, Philadelphia’s firefighters are in the running for a SAFER grant that would be used to hire 160 additional firefighters and help the fire department improve response times and expand safety training opportunities for firefighters.
Below is the full text of a letter, which will be sent today, from Senator Casey to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of Philadelphia’s SAFER grant application:
Mr. W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20472
Dear Mr. Fugate:
It is my understanding that the City of Philadelphia has applied for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER). I strongly support this application and urge you to give full and fair consideration to this proposal.
According to the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD), recent budget cuts have forced them to deactivate several engine and ladder companies and impose rolling “brown-outs,” reducing their daily operational strength. With fewer firefighters available to respond to emergencies, the PFD cannot spare personnel to participate in training, which helps to prevent accidents and injuries. Personnel cuts have also increased response times, posing a risk to individuals and critical infrastructure and making it more dangerous for firefighters when they arrive.
Funding from this SAFER grant would enable the Philadelphia Fire Department to hire additional personnel, enhancing its ability to respond quickly, safely, and effectively to fires and other emergencies in the city. In addition, the PFD expects to incur overall budget savings from hiring additional personnel, as it will no longer have to pay overtime to compensate for reductions in operational strength.
Thank you in advance for the consideration of my views. Please include this letter in the official record of the application. Consistent with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, I also respectfully request that you keep me informed of the status of this grant application.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator