The New York state Assembly Minority Conference is calling for immediate federal financial aid to local governments, with special consideration to volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical service (EMS) workers who have been stretched particularly thin during the COVID-19 healthcare emergency. To that end, the Conference members penned a letter to the president and New York’s congressional delegation requesting funding to help offset the enormous costs associated with, among other items, procuring equipment needed to combat COVID-19.
New York state has 110,000 volunteer firefighters serving in close to 900 fire districts, saving New Yorkers billions of dollars each year. Members of the Assembly Minority Conference are calling upon the federal government to do its part and help protect those who protect New York by directing aid to cover the considerable losses facing these service departments.
“From Long Island to Erie County, the state’s volunteer fire departments and EMS are filled with hard-working individuals who sacrifice time with their families to selflessly serve our communities. When the alarm sounds, we count on them to answer the call. Now, it’s time for Washington to answer their call,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. “Providing much-needed financial assistance directly to our first responders will ensure that they can confidently meet the demands of this pandemic without further risking their health or economic well-being.”
“While many of us weather the COVID-19 storm at home with loved ones, there are countless brave and dedicated emergency workers on the front lines saving lives every day,” said Assemblyman Mike Norris. “In communities across the state these individuals are our neighbors and friends serving as volunteers. Their contributions are immeasurable and we must have their backs now more than ever. This pandemic has shaken local governments, their services and our communities to the core. I urge the federal government to provide financial aid to assist our volunteer fire departments and EMS through these trying times, ensuring their critical services are able to continue.”
Assembly Minority members are calling on New York’s congressional delegation to ensure federal reimbursements for personal protective equipment (PPE) like face shields, gowns, goggles, gloves, masks, head covers, respirators and shoe covers. It is also requesting federal aid be directed to first responders who have been quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure and lost wages as a result of being unable to work at their primary place of employment.
In addition, the Conference will introduce legislation to create the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement Account to reimburse volunteer fire companies, districts, departments and EMS for expenses related to procurement of PPE and for lost revenues due to municipal budget cuts or restrictions on public fundraising events during the state of emergency declared by the Governor. Application for reimbursement from the Account will be made to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
Funding to cover loss of revenue associated with normal fundraising practices now limited by social distancing, as well as ensuring volunteer fire departments and EMS are eligible for recovery loans and grants, is also being sought.