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Schumer backs grant to lure volunteer firefighters

With the number of volunteer firefighters dropping locally and nationally, Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday he would support Nassau County's application for federal grant money to help pay the tuition of college students who are volunteer firefighters or ambulance workers.

"We are pushing now to secure $1.4 million for this grant," Schumer said at a news conference in Great Neck at the quarters of Fire Co. 4 of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire District.

"This is a great idea. I am now pledging myself to do everything I can," Schumer said. "I will call the head of FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] myself to see that this grant is approved, and it will help bring some new young people, new college students, into the fire departments."

Schumer said there were 9,311 volunteer firefighters in Nassau County in January 2009, down from 9,479 in January 2006. Under the program, authorized by the county legislature last April, any student enrolled at a college in Nassau County who joins up with a participating volunteer fire or EMS squad can receive tuition help.

The local legislation authorizes the county's Office of Emergency Management to apply for a federal grant to reimburse the students, who must be certified by their volunteer agency, meet college admission standards and work toward a degree.

The reimbursement maximum would be set at whatever the tuition is at Nassau County Community College, where it is $3,610 this year.

The bill was sponsored by Legis. Dennis Dunne Sr. (R-Levittown) and Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick.)

The original bill did not include auxiliary police officers and was restricted to students at Nassau Community College, but was amended to include police and cover all colleges in the county.

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