TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey will use $10 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help provide fire departments with more safety and sanitary equipment, officials announced Monday.
The state’s Firefighter Grant Program will allow local and regional fire departments to apply for the taxpayer money from the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed to provide stimulus funds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the money could be used not just for helmets, gloves, and boots but also for chemical-free protective clothing and cleaning equipment and products to help prevent the spread of illness, noting that firefighters faced many health and safety risks during the pandemic.
Departments can apply for up to $75,000 in grants administered by the state Department of Community Affairs. The grants, officials said, will prioritize volunteer fire departments, as well as those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“We know how hard the pandemic was on our firefighting community,” Murphy said during an event touting the program at the Hackensack Fire Department. “We know the stress that all of you are under each and every day, not knowing what you may up against while on call … while simultaneously worried about the health of your families.”
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., said firefighters “run directly into the fire, literally at the danger, when others are running out.”
“Because of that, we must always get your backs,” Gottheimer said.
Kyle Hughes, a Paterson firefighter and president of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Local 2 union, thanked officials for the funds. He noted firefighters across the state deal have dealt with COVID-19 in addition to fires, floods, chemical spills, and downed wires the last two years.
“Despite this even greater risk, our members never wavered to their duties,” Hughes said. “They put others before themselves time and time again. … Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
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