After the recent signing of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act by President Donald J. Trump, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) President, Fire Chief Gary Ludwig, expressed mixed emotions about the stimulus package.
“While I am pleased that Congress and the President took action to help those who are suffering economically by allocating federal money for hospitals, law enforcement, educational institutions, airlines, and drug companies, I am extremely disappointed that federal funding desperately needed by the American fire and emergency medical services was largely overlooked,” Chief Ludwig said.
Law enforcement agencies, by comparison, received $850 million in the stimulus bill versus only $100 million for the fire service. The funding for law enforcement will go directly to state and local governments without a required funding match. This funding is designated for direct support for law enforcement to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, including overtime; personal protective equipment and supplies; and medical needs and other supplies for inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.
“I whole-heartedly support the federal funding that our brothers and sisters in blue are receiving from Congress,” Chief Ludwig said. “They need it during this national emergency, but so do our firefighters and paramedics. The lack of funding in the CARES Act to protect our firefighters made it very clear that our U.S. Congress and the President of the United States orphaned our fire and EMS chiefs in their mission to protect their firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel who are on the frontlines in every community in the United States – providing life-saving treatment and emergency transportation to the hospital of the victims of this insidious virus.
“There are hundreds of firefighters and EMS personnel nationwide who have contracted the virus, while thousands are being quarantined after being exposed,” Chief Ludwig said. “I receive multiple reports daily from fire departments that are exhausting their budgets to keep their firefighters and EMS personnel safe with masks, gowns, goggles, cleaning supplies, while draining their overtime budgets because so many are out sick or quarantined,” Chief Ludwig said.
Chief Ludwig said the fire and EMS chiefs are fighting a “war” against a virus and the warriors at the “tip of the spear” on “Main Street USA” are our firefighters and EMS personnel. “Proper funding is absolutely required and needed to win this war and keep our communities safe,” Chief Ludwig said. “I call on Congress and the President to fully fund the needs of fire and EMS personnel in the next stimulus bill and ensure that funding provides immediate and direct funding to fire departments.
“Additionally, I am calling on Congress to immediately act to repeal the FCC mandate to auction the mission critical public safety radio spectrum in the T-Band,” Chief Ludwig said. “Interoperable radio communications are key to fire, police and EMS response to this pandemic. Failure to stop the mandated FCC auction will result in the loss of our ability to communicate in 11 of our most populous metropolitan areas during this crisis.”