FEMA denies Saginaw's request for SAFER grant - WNEM TV 5

FEMA denies Saginaw's request for SAFER grant

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

FEMA has denied Saginaw's application for the SAFER grant.

Federal grants known as Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants have helped to cover the cost of retaining and hiring firefighters.

This request was for $2.5 million, the city of Saginaw said.

“Our current SAFER Grants funded 13 positions, we’ve since had two resignations, so we currently have 11 firefighters on the books as SAFER employees,” Saginaw Fire Chief Chris Van Loo said.

Those 11 firefighters have been given layoff notices, Van Loo said. The layoffs are effective Jan. 31.

Saginaw has more than 50 firefighters and keeping them paid takes a lot of money. 

Van Loo said his department has been applying for the grant for several years now, but he said this year they had a new application hurdle to overcome.

“This current grant in this cycle of 2016, was geared strictly to new hiring,” Van Loo said. “Meaning if you want to increase the size of your department or increase functions.”

But with a staff of several seasoned firefighters, Saginaw’s department was looking to retain their firefighters instead of replacing them with rookies.

“The folks that we have now, all of them have been hired on under the current SAFER grant. So they’ve been here anywhere from just about two years to just over a few months,” Van Loo said.

Van Loo has hopes of applying again next year.

“You know we will apply in the future and it appears an application will open up in December and if the council and manager approves will certainly submit an application,” Van Loo said.

As for the potential loss in the staff of up to 11 members, Van Loo said the department will continue to carry out their duties regardless of whether there’s a loss in funding.

“I’m confident we’ll still deliver good fire protection services in the community, but it will certainly be more challenging,” Van Loo said.

The loss of the grant will bring the department's current staff of 51 down to 38 by January, the city of Saginaw said.

"The reduction of staffing will provide for 10 firefighters on duty 24 hours a day at three stations, however we are taking steps to limit the impact on the community. The safety of our citizens and our firefighters will remain our top priority," Van Loo said.

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