Menendez, Booker Tout Budget Provisions to Assist NJ First Responders, Ensure Readiness in Face of Increased Terror Threat

Menendez, Booker Tout Budget Provisions to Assist NJ First Responders, Ensure Readiness in Face of Increased Terror Threat

Extends Zadroga Act, contains funding for police, firefighters

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today lauded provisions included in the year-end federal budget that support New Jersey first responders, honor our 9/11 heroes, and ensure N.J. Air National Guard readiness at a time of heightened national security.

“As someone who first introduced the Zadroga Act and fought hard to pass it the first time, I am thrilled that we are fulfilling our moral obligation as a grateful nation to support our first responders and send a powerful message to all future first responders that we will have their backs as they do ours,” said Sen. Menendez.  “This budget also includes critical funding to help ensure our first responders are properly equipped, staffed and ready to answer the call when emergencies strike.”

“Our brave first responders stepped up when our country needed it most, and now Congress has now finally stepped up for them,” said Sen. Booker.  “We must not forget the selfless sacrifice of these brave men and women, many of whom still suffer serious health issues long after the debris was cleared from the World Trade Center site. By prioritizing programs like the James Zadroga Act, AFG and COPS, we are demonstrating our commitment to our first responders and letting them know that they will never stand alone.”

The omnibus legislation being voted on by Congress this week includes the following provisions:

Zadroga Act – Extends permanently the 9/11 health and compensation law named after New Jerseyan James Zadroga, the New York City Police detective who became the first World Trade Center first responder to die from the health effects of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero, until 2090. 

Sen. Menendez, who wrote language in the Zadroga Act to create the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund, called for a permanent extension during Senate floor speeches on Dec. 9 and Sept. 29.  He and Sen. Booker joined comedian Jon Stewart and other federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill in September to urge Congress to reauthorize the bill, and last month, they led a rally in Elizabeth with N.J. first responders and other delegation members. 

Fire Dept. Grants – Increases funding to hire more firefighters and improve safety and operations in local fire departments across New Jersey.  Provides $345 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and $345 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Act grants.  Both programs increased by $5 million from FY15 levels.

Since the programs were established in 2001 and 2003, New Jersey has received $159.1 million in AFG funding to enhance response capabilities, and more than $202 million in SAFER grants to hire firefighters.

Police Dept. Grants – Restores $187 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, zeroed-out in the original House Republican budget, to hire more local police officers. 

New Jersey received $5,187,015 in COPS funding in fiscal year 2015 to hire 39 police officers statewide.  In March, both Senators led a letter signed by 33 Senators urging the highest possible funding in fiscal year 2016. 

177th Fighter Wing – Provides $10.2 million to the 177th Fighter Wing of the N.J. Air National Guard for a Fuel Cell and Corrosion Hangar at the Atlantic City Airport. 

The Fuel Cell Maintenance Dock provides covered, protected areas for fuel systems maintenance. Proper heating, electrical, plumbing, compressed air systems, mechanical ventilation, fume sensing/alarm systems, fire extinguishing and wash-down drains are required in this facility. The Corrosion Control Hangar provides an environmentally controlled area to wash aircraft as well as hangar space for corrosion treatment and repair.