U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) today announced a $1,530,304 federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (S.A.F.E.R.) program grant for the City of Passaic's Fire Department. The funding will allow the department to rehire eight firefighters who were laid off in August 2011. Three of the firefighters served in the Iraq War.
"The economy and retirements have forced the City of Passaic's Fire Department to reduce its ranks at a time when calls for response have increased. The S.A.F.E.R. program was designed to help fire departments meet challenges exactly like those the Passaic Fire Department is facing," said Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and House Budget Committee. "I'm extremely heartened that eight firefighters -- three of them are Iraq War veterans -- will be brought back to serve the people of Passaic. Along with those Congress members who hold public safety among the highest priorities, I fought the best fight I could to keep the S.A.F.E.R. program and other public safety programs funded. It's great that some of the funding will be put to use right here in North Jersey."
"Bill Pascrell is a champion for public safety and we are grateful for his efforts in getting this funding," said Dr. Alex Blanco, mayor of the City of Passaic. "This funding will bring eight firefighters back to the city, and that will help all of our residents be that much safer in our community."
"This is certainly a shot in the arm," said Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost. "It's going to re-employ eight firefighters. We've been devastated with the economy and retirements. It has reduced the safety of our residents. It has reduced the safety of our firefighters. Now this funding is a tremendous help for us as a city, and for me as a fire chief to do the best job I can for the citizens of Passaic."
Chief Trentacost also expressed his thanks to Rep. Pascrell, who advocated for the funding.
"He's been a tremendous force," the Chief said. "He is our champion. He has my respect, my friendship and my gratitude. I'm putting eight guys back to work because of Bill Pascrell."
"It's a wonderful thing and we're very grateful," said Firefighter Dave Montalvo, president of the Firemen's Mutual Benefit Association, which has 92 members. "Our guys are doing a lot more work with less people. With the amount of people in the City of Passaic, compacted into 3.2 square miles, our guys having been doing the best they can. This funding will surely help us."
Rep. Pascrell originally sponsored theSAFER legislation, which became law in 2003. The SAFER program makes grants to local fire departments to assist in the hiring of firefighters. The program will receive up to $1.2 billion per fiscal year from 2010 to 2014.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the F.I.R.E. AFG funding directly to fire departments. Since 2001, the AFG has provided approximately $4 billion in grants to first-responder organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training.
This is the fifth federal grant to be awarded to the Passaic Fire Department, making a total of $3,016,155 awarded to the department since 2001, when the AFG program was first implemented.
In November 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized - with broad bipartisan support - Rep. Pascrell's original AFG program with $1 billion per fiscal year from 2010 to 2014.
New Jersey fire departments have received more than $97 million in AFG awards during fiscal years 2001-08 and $17 million in SAFER grants during fiscal years 2005-08.