RI Delegation Announces Nearly $6M to Hire 24 New Firefighters & Enhance Public Safety

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Three local fire departments are getting a big staffing boost thanks to a federal public safety staffing grant.

Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced a total of $5,877,024 in federal funding to help fire departments in Middletown, Portsmouth, and Woonsocket recruit, hire, and train firefighters.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant will help provide salaries and benefits for these positions for three years. 

Under this round of SAFER grant funding, Middletown will receive $1,761,288 to hire eight firefighters; Portsmouth will receive a $2,240,760 grant to hire eight additional firefighters; and the Woonsocket Fire Department will receive $1,874,976 to hire eight new firefighters.

Ordinarily, SAFER grants would subsidize firefighter salaries by up to 75 percent each for the first two years, and then up to 35 percent for a third year of the program.  However, in the wake of COVID-19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is waiving the cost-share match and the federal government will pay 100 percent of the grant without any matching funds from the grant recipients.

“Our firefighters have been on the front lines of COVID-19 response throughout the pandemic and we must ensure they have the resources, support, and staffing levels they need to effectively respond.  These federal funds will help ensure fire departments are well-staffed for around the clock staffing coverage and have the flexibility they need to respond to all manners of emergencies.  Adding these additional firefighters will improve the level of service and public safety,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.  “I will continue doing everything I can at the federal level to help our dedicated firefighters protect our communities and improve emergency response capabilities.”

“These federal awards will boost Rhode Island’s emergency preparedness by funding two dozen new firefighter positions across the state,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “With these grants, three local departments will be better positioned to protect their communities.”

“In the midst of this public health crisis our fire departments need our support more than ever to keep communities safe,” said Congressman Langevin, a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA. “I’m proud that these SAFER grant funds will help ensure crews on the front lines have adequate staffing levels to respond to the myriad of emergency scenarios. We will continue to work diligently to provide additional aid to support our firefighters’ heroic work.”

“I’m pleased that we are bringing back nearly $6 million to our state,” said Cicilline, who has consistently fought to fund the SAFER program during the appropriations process. “This new federal funding will ensure fire departments in Middletown, Portsmouth, and Woonsocket are staffed properly and that firefighters receive a decent wage for the incredibly hard work they do.”

Over the last six years, Rhode Island fire departments and other first responders across the state have successfully secured over $34.8 million in SAFER grant awards to help departments hire new firefighters.

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