Dec 17, 2012
Fifty-five firefighters who face impending lay-offs will be spared the budget axe through a new $14.9 million federal grant to help the capital of New Jersey’s fire department, announced Congressman Chris Smith (Robbinsville, N.J.), who is in his final two weeks representing the City of Trenton in Washington after redistricting removed the city from the Fourth Congressional District.
Additionally, nine entry-level positions will be funded to offset expected retirements. This new FY2012 SAFER grant is in addition to the $13.6 million FY2010 SAFER grant Smith helped obtain to save 61 jobs two years ago.
“This FEMA grant will save 55 Trenton firefighters facing layoffs in January, and help maintain staffing levels needed to protect the city residents and the State Capital,” said Smith, a long-time member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “The residents of Trenton will be safer because of this grant and 55 firefighters and their families can tear up the pink slips that may already be in the mail or that they may have received recently.”
Grant committee members John Gribbin, Mark Robotin, and Lisa Willever expressed “deep gratitude” to Congressman Smith and his entire office, both locally and in Washington D.C., for their “tireless efforts” in support of this grant. "The work of the Trenton Fire Department is vital to the protection of city residents and infrastructure as well as the state's capital complex," said Gribbin, a retired chief. "Representative Smith's continued efforts make the success of this highly trained department possible."
Smith, who has been in touch with the members of grant committee since last spring, met with them on Sept. 8 at his Hamilton Office. The congressman also spoke with the key decision-maker and top grant official at FEMA, Assistant Administrator Elizabeth Harman, on Oct. 17. He also wrote a letter to Harman detailing the city’s great need. The grant also supports the hiring of nine new firefighters to replace retired firefighters, for a total of 64 positions.
“No one ever wants to get pink slips, but with Christmas and New Year’s coming, this was an especially bad time,” said Smith. “I’m happy for the families and the city.”
The funding amounts to $14,959,560.00, and comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER). It is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. Smith received word of the funding this morning.
From September 2010-January 2011, Smith worked with Trenton to secure a $13.6 million SAFER grant that saved 61 jobs. The Congressman worked with then-Special Operations Chief John Gribbin. He sent a letter to FEMA arguing the city’s case, focusing on the budgetary woes the Garden State’s capital was facing and public safety. In December 2010, Smith helped obtain a waiver for the City after it inadvertently became ineligible for the grant when it postponed planned layoffs until after the New Year.
“In 2011 alone, the City had 627 fires, and over the past 10 years, 18 people have died as a result of fires in Trenton and more were injured,” said Smith. “The grant provides protection for the city, and helps keep more firefighters on the job during these economically challenging times.”
SAFER grants provide assistance to fire departments to increase the number of frontline firefighters. The goal is for fire departments to increase their staffing and deployment capabilities and help provide communities with adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. The SAFER program supports several critical activities, such as the rehiring of laid off firefighters, the retention of firefighters facing layoffs, the hiring of new firefighters, and recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. Grants are used to pay the salaries and benefits of firefighters hired with grant funds over the two-year award performance period.