“We rely heavily on our volunteer firefighters in our time of need. Just as they care for us, we need to care for and protect them so they can continue serving our communities. Many of our rural communities rely exclusively on volunteer fire departments for fire and emergency medical services – they cannot afford to have services reduced with regulations that put public safety at risk.” –Rep. Tom Reed
Yearly local fire departments and first responders all across the nation apply for federal grants from FEMA, which is part of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) . The grant programs help pay for “critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.” Emergency vehicles are expensive, especially for the small rural fire departments.
The Good News: Last year 18 fire departments in the NY 23rd Congressional District received over $2.4 million from these grants; in 2013, twenty-seven fire departments split almost $4 million. This year 89 fire departments in our Congressional District have applied for federal grants.
The Bad News: The Department of Homeland Security’s budget runs out on Friday, February 27, and Congress and the President are playing another round time political stare down.
The Department of Homeland Security is being funded by a Continuing Resolution (CR) which was created last December congress passed, and the President signed the “Cromnibus” Bill. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explained Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the CR froze the Department of Homeland Security’s budget at last years level. It also means that the DHS can not start new initiatives or give new grants.
The House of Representatives approved their version of the DHS funding in January. Rep. Tom Reed, who announced in a Press Release that “We also care about combating threats to our cybersecurity, which is a growing danger to our privacy, our businesses, and our national defense.” They cared so much for it they reduced funding for cybersecurity by roughly $39 billion from the 2014 budget. Reed also supported–and this is the deal breaker– all five amendments to the bill which prohibit funding of President Obama’s Immigration Executive Order.
The Senate has been wrestling with the Department of Homeland Security funding. Their goal is to get a bill that will receive the magic 60 votes needed to secure that it is sent to President Obama. Then if the President vetoes it, he would take the blame. But the GOP is having a hard time whipping up the needed support. In a closed door meeting on Tuesday two former House members/now Senators, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) tried to get the House to “reverse President Obama’s executive actions on immigration”. The House is not changing their minds. They want the Senate to rubber stamp their bill.
If congress doesn’t vote to fund the DHS, it will have to stop all nonessential activities and furlough non-essential workers. That includes those who are administrating FEMA grant applications. Only the essential workers will be on duty, but they will NOT get paid! By the way, Congress will not working next week. It’s Presidents Week, but they WILL be paid. They’ll be back in DC on Monday, February 23…DHS’s funding runs out that Friday.
Secretary Jeh Johnson, in his CNN interview, “If congress wants to have that (the Immigration) debate, let’s have that debate, but don’t tie it to the funding of safety and the funding of Homeland Security.”
Rep. Reed has traditionally been a vocal supporter of local fire departments. January 12 he supported the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act“. Reed explains, “Our volunteer first responders sacrifice their time and much more to protect and care for their neighbors. We have a responsibility to protect them and their organizations from the consequences of Obamacare.” I wonder if he feels he has the responsibility to protect them from the consequences of party politics?
The Village of Penn Yan Fire Department has has applied for a Federal Firefighter grant. The Village’s Mayor will contact Rep. Reed’s office to express his displeasure with this whole situation.
If you want to phone Rep. Reed’s Washington’s office the number is (202) 225-3161. But you better do it soon—he is on vacation next week–then he’ll go back to DC. (His Corning Office number is (607) 654-7566)
The table below shows how many fire departments in each of our district’s counties have applied for grants. You may want to contact your nearest fire department and see if they are on one of them.