HAGERSTOWN, MD – Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today held a press conference at the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) in Hagerstown, Md., to congratulate Washington County fire departments, which have been awarded nearly $2 million in the past year in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP). Senator Mikulski is on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the AFGP and fights each year to increase its federal funding. Senator Cardin is on the Budget Committee, which each year sets priorities for funding to federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.
“First responders have always been on the front lines, keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe from harm. I thank these brave men and women for their continuing service and sense of duty to our community,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to support federal investment through local grants like this, which is essential to ensure our community heroes have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.”
“I know how important this funding is to Maryland communities – often it’s the difference between life and death. First responders protect our homes and communities, and the federal government has a responsibility to protect them by providing the tools they need to do their jobs safer and smarter,” said Senator Mikulski. “Every day when our first responders report for duty, they don’t know what they will face. That’s why I continue to fight for the equipment, training and staffing our protectors and communities deserve.”
Since 2001, Washington County Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Departments have been awarded more than $7.5 million in AFGP funds. At today’s event with Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker and Funkstown VFD Captain Glenn Fuscsick, the Senators pledged to continue their fight to provide critical federal resources to fire fighters and first responders in Maryland.
In his budget proposal, President Bush provided only $300 million to fund the AFGP for fiscal year 2009, a $450 million cut from last year. He also completely eliminated funding for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, also under the AFGP. In June, the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee announced their bill restores full funding of the AFGP at $750 million. This includes $560 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and $190 million for SAFER grants.
AFGP grants fund firefighting equipment, personal protection equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, firefighter/first responder safety projects, and staffing recruitment and retention. Since 2001, Maryland fire departments and fire service organizations have received nearly $63.8 million through the AFGP.