N.J. firefighters get $10 million for COVID masks and other protective gear

Firefighter coats are lined up, with an ambulance in the background

File photo: Volunteer firefighter coats line the wall. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

Firefighters throughout New Jersey will share $10 million in federal funding to protect them from both on-the-job hazards and exposure to COVID-19.

The Firefighter Grant Program will supply gear like helmets, gloves, and boots as well as personal protective equipment like face masks.

“We know how hard the pandemic was on our firefighting community,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “We know the stress that all of you were under each and every day, not knowing what you might be up against on a call while simultaneously, and this goes for everybody, worrying about the health of your own families.”

Departments will be able to apply for $75,000 grants for fire protection gear as well as cleaning and sanitization gear.

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A study done in part by the University of Maryland looking at the challenges firefighters faced during the pandemic found their biggest concern in the early days of COVID-19 was the availability of PPE. That study also found that first responders were “struggling to maintain PPE, which impacts the pace and willingness of firefighters to work.”

“Firefighters and EMS professionals are on the front lines every day, protecting the citizens before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will be there every day moving forward,” said Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey President Steve McConlogue. “We are appreciative of this administration’s continued support of fire and EMS in New Jersey.”

Murphy said using federal funds to pay for these supplies will save local taxpayers who would otherwise have to foot the bill for the items.

“We’re going to try to ensure that our volunteer departments are given a high priority with these funds,” Murphy said. “We’re going to also look out for the departments in communities which bore an outsized burden throughout the pandemic.”

The state’s Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs will manage distribution of the funds, which come from the federal American Rescue Plan State Fiscal Recovery Funds.

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