For Immediate Release - October 07, 2009

GOVERNOR PATRICK RELEASES $8.1 MILLION IN FIRST ROUND OF STIMULUS FUNDING TO REHIRE

Governor sets aside $20 million in ARRA funds to keep firefighters employed

FALL RIVER - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - Moving to help municipal fire departments impacted by budget cuts that have forced layoffs and vacancies resulting from attrition, Governor Deval Patrick today announced he will release $8.1 million in federal stimulus funds to 13 municipal fire departments in the Commonwealth. The funds will be used to rehire 127 firefighters who were laid off because of budget reductions.

Today's announcement marks the first round of awards to fire departments from the $20 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) discretionary funds the Patrick-Murray Administration set aside specifically to help fire departments address staffing reductions caused by the current recession.

"A global economic collapse has hit cities and towns hard and forced communities to reduce firefighter staffing levels," said Governor Patrick. "These stimulus funds come at a critical time, and promise to bring immediate relief to these 13 fire departments and enhance local public safety. I thank the congressional delegation on their hard work to make these funds available so that cities and towns can better manage through to the better days ahead."

In this first round of grant awards, $8.1 million will be used to rehire 127 laid off firefighters in Bridgewater, Easton, Fall River, Hull, Lakeville, Lawrence, Methuen, Monson, New Bedford, North Attleboro, Quincy, Walpole and Worcester. Please see full list of awards in the attached spreadsheet.

"We know that our cities and towns have been hit hard by these difficult economic times," said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray. "But with these recovery funds, we are able to provide much needed financial assistance to fire departments in municipalities across the state, which will result in bringing back lost jobs, retaining public safety services and helping to stimulate the local economy."

"We passed the Recovery Act to stop the economic bleeding and get workers back on their feet, and nothing is more important than rehiring firefighters laid off because of slumping municipal budgets. We're putting people back to work, keeping our communities safe and investing in our local economy. Governor Patrick has kept faith with our first responders and honored his commitment to put our firefighters back on the job," said Senator John Kerry.

"Our courageous first responders deserve the best," said Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. "Communities across the Commonwealth are struggling to get back on their feet, and this federal funding will go a long way to restoring vital services."

"I am very pleased that the people of Fall River and New Bedford will be benefiting in a very direct way from this allocation by Governor Patrick of significant funding to put firefighters back on the street in both cities," said Congressman Barney Frank. "I have only one regret - that we couldn't allocate more money directly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act because we couldn't get the votes of three Republican Senators; the final amount was $25 billion less for states than it was when the bill left the House. But even at this level, the number of firefighters who will be added is very important, both for the firefighters and their families, and for the protection it will be giving to the people of the cities of Fall River and New Bedford. Governor Patrick recently took the first concrete steps towards providing commuter rail between our region and Boston, and I am very grateful he is following that recognition of our regional needs with this significant allocation of funding to Fall River and New Bedford."

"The public safety of the people of Massachusetts must always remain one of our highest priorities. As a result, it is essential that our local fire departments have the required personnel to do their jobs effectively. The $146,000 in federal assistance announced by Governor Patrick today will provide the Monson Fire Department with the resources necessary to continue to protect their community. It is another example of the stimulus package making a difference here in western Massachusetts," said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

"I want to congratulate the Quincy and Hull Fire Departments in receiving funds which will be used to rehire firefighters who were laid off due to budget cuts," said Congressman William Delahunt. "Since firefighters themselves are a department's most valuable asset, it is vital that staffing is kept at a level which will enhance public safety."

"I'm very pleased that Fall River, North Attleboro and Worcester will be receiving this important stimulus funding," said Congressman James McGovern. "Local budgets have been hit hard during the economic downturn, and it's critical that we support public safety. I want to thank the Governor for his dedication to this issue."

"These grants are welcome news for our courageous firefighters across the Commonwealth," Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said. "With cities and towns struggling during these difficult economic times, I am pleased to see that Governor Patrick is using these stimulus funds to help maintain staffing levels and keep our communities safe."

"We all know what a devastating effect the economic downturn has had on local municipal budgets," said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. "These federal funds are critical to the ability of our cities and towns to maintain public safety services and preserve the jobs of those who sacrifice so much on our behalf. I want to thank Governor Patrick for making them available to our communities."

By earmarking $20 million in federal stimulus funding for municipal fire departments, the Governor is seeking to bolster staffing levels by allowing cities and towns to rehire as many laid off firefighters as possible, prevent further layoffs and address staffing reductions caused by attrition. This grant program gives communities much needed flexibility in dealing with reduced public safety budgets.

Eighty-seven fire departments from across the state submitted applications to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security as part of the Patrick-Murray administration's Fire Services Staffing Grant Program. The process of reviewing those applications and making grant decisions remains underway.

"This much needed funding helps ensure that communities will have adequate staffing to preserve public safety, which is a critical priority of this administration," said Public Safety and Security Secretary Kevin M. Burke. "This is just the first round of funding. The administration will be awarding another $11.9 million to communities that have seen their fire departments downsized as a result of budget cuts. We are moving quickly to provide critically needed assistance to local fire departments."

The ARRA includes only one program for local fire departments. The Act makes $210 million available nationally through a competitive grant program to support the renovation and construction of local fire stations. The ARRA does not earmark any stimulus money to fire departments to bolster staffing or for programs that have been reduced or eliminated as a result of the current recession.

Today's announcement is on top of $45 million in previously committed ARRA funding going directly from the federal government to municipal police departments across the state. In total, $71 million in federal recovery funds are being directed to local public safety officials who continue to face difficult budget challenges caused by the unprecedented global economic downturn.

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