Essential Lifesaving Public Services at Risk Due to Inability to Fundraise with Coronavirus Threat

Senator Robert G. Ortt (R,C,I, Ref – North Tonawanda) and Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport) this week introduced legislation in Albany known as the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement Account Act. The bill would reimburse volunteer fire companies and EMS for the purchase of PPE and lost revenue due to municipal budget cuts or restrictions on fundraising events during the state of emergency declared by the governor due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Senator Rob Ortt said, “Volunteer Fire Departments rely heavily on the proceeds they receive from community events held at their fire halls. However, due to the current pandemic, these departments have been forced to close their doors for these events and have lost out on thousands of dollars in revenue. It is vital that we work with our federal partners and find ways to make sure that these volunteer companies are solvent, have the ability to purchase life-saving emergency medical equipment, and can continue providing crucial public safety services. Without assisting volunteer fire departments, we are putting at risk the communities that rely on these volunteer departments and the individuals who provide these emergency services.”

“Every day brave volunteers from our community rise up to put their lives on hold in order to train, prepare and respond to our emergencies, whether they be fires, floods or health-related,” said Assemblyman Mike Norris. “To further compound these risks and costs, they need to take extra measures to protect themselves and the public from COVID-19, and not just while they are responding to daily calls. They have had to cancel the fish dinners, pancake breakfasts and other community fundraisers that we all enjoy and, more importantly, are their main sources of operating revenue. As your assemblyman, I had to take action to help so our volunteer fire and EMS can continue to provide these essential, lifesaving services.”

Assemblyman Angelo J. Morinello (R,C, I, Ref – Niagara Falls) and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R,C,I – Batavia) have also co-sponsored this key legislation. 

Assemblyman Morinello said, “This health crisis without a doubt has brought tremendous fiscal pressure on the state, but we cannot afford to jeopardize both our citizens’ wellbeing and our first responders’ safety. It’s important to note there’s about $90 million that the state collected from the wireless surcharge which is currently sitting in the State General Fund and is not used for emergency response purposes. Our number one priority is to keep our heroes on the frontlines both protected and functional during this ongoing pandemic.

Assemblyman Hawley said, “Anything we can do to help our volunteer firefighters to lighten the financial load for them so they can continue to protect our lives & property is of paramount importance……especially during this Pandemic.”