FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Gary Haluska
House votes to extend and expand grant program for first responders
Bill would add paid fire departments; increase average grant awards
HARRISBURG, June 27 – State Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Cambria, said that the state House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation that would extend and expand a program that provides grants to Pennsylvania’s emergency responders.
The legislation would extend a current state program that provides grant funding to volunteer fire departments and volunteer ambulance companies. The grants can be used to update facilities, purchase equipment, pay down debt or provide training for first responders. The program was set to expire at the end of this month; under the bill it would be extended another four years, until June 2016.
“The program was originally created to take some of the tremendous fundraising pressure off of volunteer fire and ambulance companies,” Haluska said. “In many cases, volunteers were spending much more time and effort raising money than responding to emergencies. We wanted to make sure that wasn’t costing these companies volunteers. We also wanted to help these companies stay current with their equipment and training considering the tremendous amount of value they have in Pennsylvania in terms of saved lives, property and insurance costs.”
The program was extended once before, in 2007. Haluska said under the legislation that passed today, the program extension would also include, for the first time, Pennsylvania’s 35 paid fire departments.
“The state’s municipal fire departments – and the local taxpayers that fund them – are also under tremendous financial pressure,” Haluska said. “It’s time to ensure that all first responders in Pennsylvania have access to this important source of funding.”
The legislation would increase funding for the grant program from $25 million to $30 million. In addition to allowing for the addition of paid fire companies, the increased funding amount would also allow the average amount of grants to fire departments to increase from $9,500 to $12,000 and the average grant to volunteer ambulance companies from $4,500 to $5,600.