State legislators seek aid for fire departments which face rising costs, lost revenue

Staff Reports Posted 2 May 2020 at 8:47 am

Fire Departments are spending for PPE, cancelling fundraisers due to Covid-19

Three state legislators who represent Orleans County this week backed legislation in Albany known as the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement Account Act.

The bill would reimburse volunteer fire companies and EMS for the purchase of PPE and lost revenue due to municipal budget cuts or restrictions on fundraising events during the state of emergency declared by the governor due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With these organizations relying heavily on donations and fundraisers to support their services, and with the lockdown draining them of their resources, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) wants to ensure these workers are protected and ensure their success.

“During these tough times, with a budget that is struggling to keep up, we need to be provide state and federal funding to those risking their health and safety on the front lines,” Hawley said. “There is just about $90 million that’s been generated from wireless surcharges that is deposited into the state’s General Fund and not used for emergency response purposes; my recommendation is to start there.”

To further support these frontline workers, Hawley is urging Speaker Heastie and the Chair of Assembly Racing and Waging Committee, Assemblyman Pretlow, to allow a full vote on his Assembly Bill A2250, which would legalize the selling of raffle tickets online for non-profit organizations who fundraise, such as local firehouses, volunteer organizations, service clubs, or EMS operations.

State Senator Robert Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) and Assemblyman Mike Norris (R-Lockport) this week introduced the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement Account Act legislation in Albany.

“Volunteer Fire Departments rely heavily on the proceeds they receive from community events held at their fire halls,” Ortt said. “However, due to the current pandemic, these departments have been forced to close their doors for these events and have lost out on thousands of dollars in revenue. It is vital that we work with our federal partners and find ways to make sure that these volunteer companies are solvent, have the ability to purchase life-saving emergency medical equipment, and can continue providing crucial public safety services. Without assisting volunteer fire departments, we are putting at risk the communities that rely on these volunteer departments and the individuals who provide these emergency services.”

“Every day brave volunteers from our community rise up to put their lives on hold in order to train, prepare and respond to our emergencies, whether they be fires, floods or health-related,” Norris said. “To further compound these risks and costs, they need to take extra measures to protect themselves and the public from COVID-19, and not just while they are responding to daily calls. They have had to cancel the fish dinners, pancake breakfasts and other community fundraisers that we all enjoy and, more importantly, are their main sources of operating revenue.”

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