Tester to FEMA: Firefighters Need Funding for Protective Gear Now

Senator leads bipartisan group in demanding agency quickly allocate $100 million in funding for first responders to purchase protective gear

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to quickly provide fire departments and emergency medical service (EMS) providers with $100 million in grant funding allocated by the Coronavirus Relief, Aid, and Economic Security (CARES) Act last month.

Tester successfully secured the $100 million to help fire departments and EMS providers purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and cover other costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic through Assistance to Firefighter Grants. FEMA says that it is still developing a plan to allocate the funding even though first responders across the country report they are lacking necessary protective gear.

“Firefighters are on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and must interact frequently with individuals who are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for the virus,” wrote the Senators in a letter to FEMA. “…It is imperative that FEMA work quickly to develop the necessary notices and public guidance so that fire departments and other eligible organizations can prepare any necessary application materials and receive this urgent funding.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that first responders who anticipate coming into contact with individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 wear adequate PPE. Without PPE like respirators, gowns, eye protection, gloves, and masks, first responders are put at unnecessary risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Tester has been working around the clock to ensure that Montana’s first responders and medical professionals have the necessary equipment to combat coronavirus. He successfully pressured FEMA to ship 68,000 N95 masks to Montana after the agency failed to deliver on their promise to provide the state with PPE. He recently voted to deliver critical, urgent relief to Montana health providers including $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile with PPE for frontline health workers, $850 million in Byrne JAG funding to help law enforcement purchase PPE and pay officer overtime, and $1.25 billion for the state of Montana to combat the virus.

Read the full text of Tester’s letter HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak