The United States Department of Homeland Security has awarded the Paterson Fire Department $7,498,372 in grant money that will allow the city to avert a potential major reduction in force, announced Congressman Bill Pascrell on Wednesday morning.
“This federal grant couldn’t come at a better time, as cities like Paterson continue to feel budgets constraints that threaten critical public safety resources,” Pascrell said.
The grant provided through the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Act will let Paterson hire 32 new firefighters and fill 17 positions that were lost through attrition. In total the grant will allow the city to hire 49 firefighters, Pascrell said.
“It’s a great day for the fire department and the city,” said fire chief Michael Postorino. “It’s much needed.” He said this will prevent force reduction that was predicted forthcoming in the city’s transitional aid application to the state earlier in the year. The city’s fire department handles 48,000 calls for service every year and it needs its firefighters, said the chief.
“I wrote the SAFER Act to help fire departments like Paterson avoid having to face a significantly depleted force that could potentially jeopardize the safety of our communities,” Pascrell, Chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, said. “Adequate staffing for fire departments has a direct correlation to their response times and can literally mean the difference between life and death.”
In May the congressman wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in support of Paterson’s grant application.
Pascrell has been fighting others in the congress attempting to undermine the legislation that he put in place to ensure local fire departments are adequately staff, said the congressman.
“While there are still those in Congress who seek to undermine these effective programs, I stand committed to fighting to ensure they are fully funded in order to assist our brave men and women on the front lines,” Pascrell said.
So far Paterson fire department has received 27.8 million from the federal government since 2001, according to Pascrell. In 2013, the congressman secured a $6.9 million SAFER grant allowing the department to retain 40 firefighters on the verge of being cut and add an additional nine.
In 2005, the city received $6.4 million in SAFER grant that allowed it to hire 53 firefighters. Pascrell has been instrumental in securing nine FIRE grants since 2001 totaling $2.5 million for equipment purchases.
In 2009, Paterson was awarded $4.5 million for the construction of the McBride Avenue firehouse via the Firefighters Station Construction Grant funded through the Recovery Act.
Jayed Rahman contributed to this report.