RELEASE: During National Police Week, Gottheimer Announces New Federal Investments and Legislation to Support North Jersey First Responders

Highlights more than $5 million in new investments for police, firefighters, and EMS. Helps Pass new legislation to ensure first responders have key equipment, training, and resources

May 14, 2024
Press

Above: Gottheimer announces new investments clawed back for North Jersey first responders.

NEW MILFORD, NJ — Today, May 14, 2024, during National Police Week, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited New Milford Volunteer Fire Company 1 to highlight millions in new investments in North Jersey first responders — police, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel. Gottheimer also celebrated the recent passing of legislation he led to reauthorize, the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act, which reauthorizes key Assistant to Firefighter Grant Program and the Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. Gottheimer has helped claw back more than $8 million AFG grants since 2017 and more than $4 million in SAFER grants since 2018 to North Jersey.  . 

Gottheimer is intently focused on clawing back federal tax dollars from Washington to help strengthen North Jersey and lower taxes. Jersey has historically received about 75 cents for every dollar sent to Washington, placing a higher tax burden on municipalities and forcing them to either raise taxes or cut key projects. By clawing back federal investment, North Jersey can hire, train, equip, and support first responders without raising local taxes.

Video of Gottheimer’s remarks here

“I’m honored to announce new investments that we’ve clawed from Washington back to North Jersey to make sure all of our brave first responders have the equipment, training, and resources they need to protect themselves and our communities – and to announce new legislation that expands federal investments into public safety and gets the backs of our first responders,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “We must always have the backs of our first responders, just as you always have our backs. There’s nothing partisan about protecting our communities and equipping our first responders.”

New Federal Investments Announced By Congressman Gottheimer:

  • $1 million to help Bergenfield acquire emergency communications equipment.
  • $963,000 to help Paramus acquire emergency communications equipment.
  • $160,000 to help the Woodcliff Lake Police Department acquire automated license plate reader cameras.
  • $150,000 to help the Upper Saddle River Police Department acquire automated license plate reader cameras.
  • $2.3 million through the American Rescue Plan Firefighter Grants Program to help firefighters in 42 municipalities get safety equipment including protective uniforms, oxygen tanks, and cleaning equipment.

Federal Public Safety Grant Programs and Investments for North Jersey:

  • LESO 1033 Program, which helps local law enforcement acquire vehicles, aircraft, and other surplus equipment from the federal government. Congressman Gottheimer has clawed back nearly $20 million through LESO for North Jersey since entering office. 
  • General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Surplus Personal Property Donation Program, which allows surplus federal property, including vehicles, scientific equipment, and heavy machinery to be donated to state, county, and local organizations. Congressman Gottheimer has clawed back more than $2.6 million through the GSA Surplus program for North Jersey since entering office. 
  • Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), which equip and train firefighters to better respond to emergencies. Congressman Gottheimer has clawed back more than $8 million through AFG for North Jersey since entering office. 
  • Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), which ensures that fire departments can hire and retain a 24-hour firefighting force. Congressman Gottheimer has clawed back more than $4 million through SAFER for North Jersey since 2018. 
  • The Community Oriented Policing Services Program (COPS), which supports police departments in hiring officers and training them in community policing strategies. Congressman Gottheimer clawed back more than $3.8 million through COPS for North Jersey since entering office.
  • American Rescue Plan Firefighter Grants (ARPFFG), which helps local fire departments cover the cost of protective clothing and critical equipment. Congressman Gottheimer clawed back more than $3.4 million through ARPFFG for North Jersey since the COVID-19 pandemic.

During today’s event, Gottheimer highlighted his bipartisan Invest to Protect Act, which passed the House with an overwhelming majority in the last Congress. Gottheimer also discussed his work leading the Social Security Fairness Act, which would help three million Americans — including police and firefighters — access both their pensions and social security benefits after devoting their careers to public service.

“[AFG] grants are so important to our local fire departments. They help our first responders do the job they need,” said New Milford Mayor Michael Putrino. 

“I’d like to thank Congressman Gottheimer and his team…for working so hard and keeping the AFG program possible. The New Milford Fire Department has been very fortunate to receive multiple grants, such as SCBAs for the entire department, a whole complement of radios for the entire department, and most recently, we’re awarded a major grant of a ladder truck to replace a 30-year-old apparatus,” said New Milford Fire Department Chief Gerard Smithson.

“Our agency will be receiving money from the Community Project Funding program for the purchase and installation of automated license plate readers or ALPRs,” said Upper Saddle River Police Department Chief Patrick Rotella. “On behalf of our agency and our entire community I want to personally thank Congressman Gottheimer and his team for their assistance throughout the application process. As a former detective and the chair of the Bergen County Police Chiefs Crime prevention committee I can attest that this technology will make our community as well as those around us safer.”

“Congressman Gottheimer, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for recognizing and supporting the needs of our small communities here in Bergen County,” said Woodcliff Lake Police Department Chief Stephen Regula. “This funding which will be utilized for technology that too often falls outside of our budgetary needs and will be used to benefit the community in many ways. This technology will help the Woodcliff Lake Police Department further our common goal of public safety.”

“One challenge is we’ve never charged a fee, and we are one-hundred percent volunteer and dependent on donations. As prices continue to rise, our donations continue to dwindle,” said Teaneck EMS President Danny Senter. “I can honestly say, without the assistance of grants that many of our members worked hard to secure, we would be unable to continue our lifesaving efforts, specifically the Fireman’s Assistance Grant [AFG].”

“I’m proud to stand alongside our state’s first responders to highlight all Congressman Gottheimer is doing to clawback money, New Jersey tax dollars specifically, from Washington to invest in our law enforcement and keep our communities safe,” said NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Bergen County Conference Chairman Vincent Rizzo. “There is nothing partisan about supporting our law enforcement. Congressman Gottheimer has the backs of law enforcement and continues to work hard to keep our communities safe. During this National Police Week, we commit ourselves to ensuring police get the resources and benefits that they need to protect and serve.”

“I want to thank Congressman Gottheimer for his hard work and dedication to public safety, making sure it’s always a priority and never a second thought. I have always believed that investment in public safety is a direct investment in the communities, and Congressman Gottheimer has practiced that since day one since taking office,” said FMBA Northern District Vice President Ed McKeown. “I would like to quickly point out the Congressman for leading efforts in passing bipartisan reauthorization for the AFG grants, the SAFER grants, as well as the United States Fire Administration.”

“We’re here to highlight two very important grants: the SAFER and AFG. These programs have helped keep our members, our departments staffed properly over the last couple years, and we’re happy to see that Congressman Gottheimer is going forward and fighting for the reauthorization of these grants,” said Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey President Matt Caliente. “Every first responder in this state should be proud that we have a Congressman that goes down to D.C. every day and fights to get money back, so we have the best equipment possible, the best staffing that we can have. Without the fight of Congressman Gottheimer, we don’t know where we’d be.”

Gottheimer was joined by New Milford Mayor Michael Putrino, New Milford Council President Hedy Grant, New Milford Councilwomen Randi Duffy and Lisa Sandhusen, Woodcliff Lake Councilwoman Jennifer Margolis, Woodcliff Lake Councilman Benjamin Pollack, Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey President Matt Caliente, FMBA Northern District Vice President Ed McKeown, NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Bergen County Conference Chairman Vincent Rizzo and Bergen County Conference Treasurer Frank Warther, Upper Saddle River Police Department Chief Patrick Rotella, Woodcliff Lake Police Department Chief Stephen Regula, New Milford Fire Department Chief Gerard Smithson, and Teaneck EMS President Danny Senter.

Below: Gottheimer announces new investments clawed back for North Jersey first responders.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be here at New Milford’s Volunteer Fire Company 1 with great Jersey cops, firefighters, and EMTs as we begin National Police Week. 

Today, I’m honored to announce new investments that we’ve clawed from Washington back to North Jersey to make sure all of our brave first responders have the equipment, training, and resources they need to protect themselves and our communities – and to announce new legislation that expands federal investments into public safety and gets the backs of our first responders.

Ever since I was elected to Congress seven years ago, I’ve been intently focused on clawing our federal tax dollars back from Washington to help strengthen our communities, especially resources for our police, firefighters, and EMTs. My dad always said to me as a kid, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” And, for too long, North Jersey, specifically the Fifth District, didn’t fight for federal grants, whether that was hoses to help our firefighters fight a five-alarm fire or radios to help our EMTs stay connected in times of emergency. We left money on the table by not applying, which was swept up by certain states that I lovingly call the “Moocher States.” 

Clawing back investments for our communities is a win-win-win. First, by clawing back, we’re putting our federal tax dollars to use. Jersey historically has received about 75 cents for every dollar we send to Washington, that’s about four times less than Moocher States like Mississippi and West Virginia. By clawing back major grants, we’re making sure that Jersey gets it fair share.

The more federal tax dollars we claw back to Jersey, the less our towns have to charge in local taxes. And, as you know well, our taxes are far too high. Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation, including a median tax bill of more than $15,000 here in Bergen County. I’m all about lowering taxes and making life more affordable because it means more jobs and more people staying in Jersey. 

And, most important, we’re investing these dollars into projects and places that make Jersey a better, safer place to live, work, and raise a family. That starts with our first responders, the backbone of our communities, who we can always count on to answer the call and protect us — in the face of fire, a medical emergency, or a security threat. 

I am very proud that, since 2016, working together, we are up 357 percent in the federal tax dollars that we’ve clawed back to North Jersey from Washington, helping to keep the Fifth District Safe. I’ve heard directly from our firefighters, EMS, and police that these clawbacks —from programs like the 1033 or LESO program, GSA Federal Surplus Program, AFG, SAFER, and COPS — have made a world of a difference.

I want to take a few minutes to walk through each of these programs and underscore just how much they’ve delivered for North Jersey over the past few years.

First, keep in mind, it’s National Police Week. I’m proud to announce today new federal investments to fight crime and to help protect law enforcement, our families, and our communities. We recently clawed back $160,000 to help the police department in Woodcliff Lake fight crime and terror and $150,000 to help the Upper Saddle River police to help acquire new automated license plate reader cameras to stop a wide range of crimes. 

As the chiefs here today told me and my team, these investments will play a vital role in stopping auto theft, carjackings, and illegal dumping that hurts our environment. By implementing this innovative technology across the state, we’ll make Jersey a safer, cleaner place to live.

Our police officers need specialized equipment to rescue people and investigate crimes. But such specialized equipment can be hard to find and difficult to pay for. That’s why I’m proud to support programs like the Law Enforcement Support Office or LESO program, which helps police departments purchase used equipment, tools, and vehicles from the Department of Defense, so they can keep our communities safe.

Since 2017, North Jersey has clawed back nearly $20 million through LESO. These dollars have already had a major impact: Upper Saddle River Police Department, who’s joining us today, saved $128,000 and received a loader and scooper, equipment that is absolutely key for recovery missions.

But equipment is only one part of the problem. Our police departments also need support to train and retain talent. A 2023 survey from Lexipol found that 87% of police officers in the U.S. work in departments that are not fully staffed. I’m proud to support programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant to make sure they have the staff support they need.

We’ve received more than $3.8 million from the COPS program during my time in office. These grants keep our communities safe by making sure we have officers on the beat and investing in innovative solutions that prevent crimes from happening in the first place.

Second, I’m proud to announce today more than $2.3 million in new federal investments for our great firefighters in 42 towns across the Fifth District as part of the American Rescue Plan Firefighter Grants program. I fought hard to get this money included in the American Rescue Plan back during the pandemic and since then, have worked closely with our state leaders year after year to invest these grants into our firefighters.

These grants will help ensure firefighters have the proper safety equipment to keep our communities safe like new protective uniforms, oxygen tanks, and cleaning equipment, all while lowering the property tax burden. All in all, the Fifth District has clawed back more than $3.4 million in ARPFFG dollars.

It’s also absolutely essential that we have firefighters round-the-clock ready to respond. After all, fires don’t just pop up from 9 to 5. We rely on the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant — or “SAFER” grant — to help make sure that our departments have staff 24/7 and can pay firefighters, including volunteers, to protect our communities. Since 2018, we’ve clawed back more than $4 million for eleven towns across North Jersey: Park Ridge, Franklin Lakes, Hackensack, Washington, and more. Along the way, SAFER has helped start the careers of countless firefighters, including Ed from FMBA! 

There’s also the Assistance to Firefighters Grants or AFG program, which helps our firefighters and other first responders access the critical equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, and training they need to protect our communities. Since 2017, we’ve clawed back more than $8 million for more than 40 municipalities across Bergen, Sussex, and Passaic Counties, including for the Teaneck Ambulance Volunteer Corps.

There’s no better place to talk about AFG than New Milford, as they’ve been absolute superstars in applying for and winning these grants. New Milford has clawed back an impressive $3.4 million in federal grants since 2017. They won the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) every single year from 2017 to 2022, which totaled $1.3 million. New Milford used one of its AFG grants worth $750,000 to buy a new ladder truck.

So many of our other towns have also benefited from AFG. Teaneck Fire Department clawed back $437,000 for radios, so they could rapidly respond during a fire. Glen Rock Fire Department won nearly $300,000 for air filtration and masks, which are essential for firefighters entering a smoky building. That’s thousands of dollars that don’t fall on the local budget and taxpayer.

Third, I cannot underscore just how important federal investment is to keep our emergency medical services squads running. As you just heard from Danny, some of our EMS teams, including in Teaneck, operate solely on donations. We salute their service, and we must make sure they have the equipment they need to respond when 911 calls come in. 

About $2 million of the new federal dollars that I’ve clawed back from Washington will also help New Jersey’s first responders arrive to scenes faster and more efficiently — ensuring those, like our EMS, can provide potentially lifesaving aid as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

$963,000 of that new investment will go to emergency services communications equipment improvements in Paramus — which will assist both the Paramus EMS and Police, who are joining us today — and another million will be spent on similar equipment in Bergenfield. These investments will lead to improved response times, better coordination, and ultimately, enhanced public safety while saving tax dollars — a win-win.

My office also worked with the Glenwood Pochuck Ambulance Corps in Vernon has clawed back more than $200,000 from the General Services Administration – GSA – for a truck and an ATV. We can all rest a little easier knowing that our EMS heroes have the resources they need to respond and save lives if and when emergency strikes. In fact, we’ve clawed more than $2.6 million through GSA programs since I entered office.

Just last week, I proudly helped lead the Fire Grants Safety Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the AFG and SAFER programs for another five years. And fingers crossed, we’ll win even more of these grants over the next five years! 

This week, we will also be voting on legislation modeled after my Invest to Protect Act, which will expand COPS grants to cover recruitment and retention of officers. We need strong, fully-staffed law enforcement to keep our communities safe, and this legislation is a great first step.

I’ve led the charge for years in calling for such bipartisan legislation, and I will be proud to support it when it passes the House, like the Invest to Protect Act did in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way, and gets signed into law later this week. The Invest to Protect Act that I introduced invests in the retention and recruitment of new officers, in mental health services, and training.

Finally, I’m working to make sure our first responders get the benefits they deserve after serving our communities with honor. I’m leading the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act with my colleagues from the Problem Solvers Caucus to make sure that first responders can receive both their pension and Social Security benefits during retirement. If passed, it’ll help nearly three million Americans, including many police officers and firefighters. No one should be penalized for pursuing public service like our first responders.

We must always have the backs of our first responders, just as you always have our backs. There’s nothing partisan about protecting our communities and equipping our first responders. And, I promise you, this is just the beginning. I look forward to joining you back here next year to celebrate even more investments to protect our communities.

By working together to stand up for safety, here in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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