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Schumer presses House to restore firefighter grants

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Since 2009, 52 fire departments in the north country have received a total of $3.4 million in federal life-saving grants, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

There may be no future grants unless the House of Representatives reappropriates the program. A Senate defense bill provides the grants, which help fire companies recruit and train firefighters and purchase vital equipment, but the authorization is missing from a similar House bill.

The senator on Wednesday called upon members of the House to restore the Assistance to Firefighters Grants and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response programs, according to his office.

“Our firefighters need to know that the federal government has their backs every time they suit up and prepare to save lives,” he said. “For this reason, it is critical that the final National Defense Authorization Act include the reauthorization of two critical grant programs for our firefighters.”

He cited Hurricane Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee for the life-and-death situations they presented, saying departments that received grant money were better prepared to participate in rescue efforts.

The senator made his argument in a conference call to House conferees, and was joined by Thomas L. LaBelle, executive director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs.

The north country’s share of grant money is dwarfed by distributions elsewhere in the state, according to the senator’s released statement. Since 2009, 56 Hudson Valley units have received $15.1 million, followed by 61 departments in the Rochester-Finger Lakes sector, $7.4 million; 56 companies in the Southern Tier, $7.1 million; 50 departments in Western New York, $6.9 million; 40 units in Central New York, $6.1 million, and 61 departments in the Capital Region, $5.4 million.

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