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FEMA grants $4M to recruit LI firefighters, EMS workers

Long Island will receive more than $4 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's office said Sunday.

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties are getting the money as part of the agency's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. The funds will reimburse tuition money per semester to students attending college in either county if they volunteer for a fire department or EMS squad.

"This funding will allow both Nassau and Suffolk counties to add hundreds of new volunteer firefighters to local departments and plug the losses we have seen in the volunteer ranks over the last several years," said Schumer (D-N.Y.). "The strategy employed by Nassau and Suffolk to run this program jointly is a model for departments throughout the state. This crucial aid will help attract Long Island's finest into service."

Nassau County will receive $1.6 million, and Suffolk will get $2.5 million for the program, which will run for four years. The counties applied jointly for the funds.

The $4 million was the full amount that the counties had asked for, said Schumer, who lobbied for Long Island to receive the money.

Students who are members of volunteer fire departments or EMS squads and earn passing grades in college are eligible for the tuition reimbursements - $1,811 a semester in Nassau and $1,788 a semester in Suffolk.

The grants will be available starting this fall semester, Schumer's office said, and both current and new students will be eligible.

Eugene Perry, president of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firemen's Association, said he welcomed the new grants.

"I'm glad that the federal government understands our needs here," Perry said.


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