New Jersey lawmakers visited a firehouse in Hackensack to announce a new $10 million grant program to help first responders as well as taxpayers.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Josh Gottheimer were on hand to launch the state’s new American Rescue Plan Firefighter Grant Program that will help local and regional fire departments provide first responders with proper protective, cleaning, and sanitizing equipment.
“Confronted by new challenges and obstacles throughout the pandemic, New Jersey’s firefighters remained unflagging in their commitment to the safety of their neighbors,” said Murphy. “The American Rescue Plan Firefighter Grant Program will help New Jersey fulfill its responsibility to these heroes, whose courage and selflessness in the face of danger demand no less.
“By launching this program, we demonstrate our commitment to safety and peace of mind for those who are entrusted with our protection.”
American Rescue Plan Funding
The grant program is using American Rescue Plan funds enabling fire departments to better protect their employees not just against fires and other hazards on the front lines of emergency responses, but against deadly pathogens such as cancer as well. Both lawmakers and firefighter who spoke noted that since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, firefighters have faced additional health and safety risks and a growing need for an array of high-quality equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and toxic-chemical-free clothing ensembles, helmets, gloves, and boots.
Murphy noted the connection between the COVID relief funding and the effect the pandemic had on first responders.
$75K in Grants
“We know how hard the pandemic was on our firefighting community,” said the governor. “We know the stress that all of you are under each and every day, not knowing what you may up against while on call…while simultaneously worried about the health of our families.”
Gottheimer said the program is set up to award up to $75,000 for eligible local and regional fire departments in New Jersey.
“We’re now clawing back even more federal dollars to support our local fire departments and first responders, particularly for our smaller ones where resources are even more stretched,” said Gottheimer, a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “(The program obtains) critical federal resources back from Washington for Jersey fire departments—to protect our communities, our families, firefighters, and EMTs. We must always get the backs of our first responders.”
Backing of Firefighters
The grants will prioritize volunteer fire departments, as well as departments in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Murphy and Gottheimer were joined by members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ), the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJ FMBA), and the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association, all who praised the them for their continued support of firefighters and helping procure needed equipment.
“This grant program will go a long way in supporting the well-being of our New Jersey State Firefighter’s Association members who serve in career and volunteer departments,” said New Jersey State Firemen’s Association President Robert Ordway. “Access to new equipment and continued training will help protect the health and safety of firefighters throughout (the state).”
Both lawmakers raised the point state taxpayers will benefits as as well. Gottheimer said since being elected in 2018, the 5th Congressional District has clawed back more than 112% in the federal tax dollars and away from “the Moocher States.”
“These dollars take a major financial weight off our town and county budgets, and help lower the property tax burden on our families,” said the Congressman “Looking out for our first responders and clawing our tax dollars back home is not a Democrat or Republican issue—it’s purely a what’s good for Jersey issue.”
“This critical investment will not only keep our communities, families, and brave first responders safe, but it will also help lower our property taxes and make life more affordable for Jersey families.”
Murphy added that “every dollar that we can deploy from either state or federal funds is a dollar that stays in the pockets of local property taxpayers.”