RELEASE: Gottheimer Speaks on House Floor to Urge Hackensack City Council to Accept Federal Grant for Firefighter Staffing

Nov 17, 2022
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Two Days Until Hackensack City Council Turns Down $2.4 Million Federal Grant

Public Safety Report Shows City Needs More Firefighters, Gottheimer Concerned Families’ Safety at Risk

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, November 17, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge the Hackensack City Council to reconsider their decision to turn down a nearly $2.4 million federal grant to hire 12 new firefighters, pay their salaries and benefits for three years, and cover their training costs. 

Video of Gottheimer’s floor remarks can be found here.

The City Council plans to reject the federal grant that Gottheimer and the Hackensack Fire Department fought for and resubmit it for a lower number of firefighters. This risky decision could result in no new firefighters being hired using federal funds — hurting families’ safety and taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

According to a September 2022 report of the Hackensack Fire Department, public safety experts reviewed the recent development and growth in Hackensack, including high-rises, hospitals, and more, and stated: “Clearly the size and complexity of many of these development projects will prove challenging for the current public safety resources of the city and call for careful consideration for increasing the response capabilities of local fire department.”

Additionally, according to the Hackensack Fire Department, over the course of three years there will be upwards of 20 currently-employed firefighters who will be ready to retire. 

If the City turns down this federal grant, then the salaries of new firefighters will be paid for using local tax dollars. 

The Hackensack City Council has until November 19, 2022, to accept the nearly $2.4 million federal grant.

The nearly $2.4 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant that Gottheimer helped claw back to North Jersey will:

·         Help hire 12 new Hackensack firefighters and pay for their salaries for three years. Over the course of three years, there will be upwards of twenty firefighters who will retire and the Department averages four retiring firefighters a year.

·         Ensure that Hackensack’s Fire Department grows as the city continues to develop with new high-rises, hospitals, and more. A September 2022 report called for the City to consider increasing the Fire Department’s response capabilities.

·         Save taxpayers on their property tax bills. Instead of hiring 12 new firefighters on the City’s dime with local property taxes — something the City will have to do as the city expands and firefighters retire — these federal tax dollars can be used instead. 

·         Help the City of Hackensack save money by having more firefighters, rather than paying overtime.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I rise today to strongly urge the Hackensack City Council to reconsider their decision to turn down a nearly $2.4 million dollar federal grant to hire new firefighters, which the Hackensack Fire Department and I worked very hard to claw back from Washington to Jersey.

This grant will hire new firefighters — to better protect our first responders, families, and help lower property taxes by taking the financial burden off of Hackensack taxpayers.

This week, I stood with the Hackensack Fire Department, the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, Hackensack IAFF Locals 2081 and 3172, and Bergen County Executive and firefighter Jim Tedesco to call on the Hackensack City Council to accept this federal grant. 

We know that firefighters will be retiring in the coming years and that a public safety report calls for the City to hire new firefighters. 

Yet, the City Council plans to reject the grant and resubmit it for fewer firefighters.

I will do everything I can to support any revised grant application, but this is a very risky decision and could result in no new firefighters being hired with federal investment and that puts people’s lives in danger. 

We must always look out for our families and get the backs of those who protect us. 

Thank you and I yield back.

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