By Rep. Anita Kulik
Our first responders — firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, all who serve and protect us, especially those in law enforcement — have worked tirelessly through these pandemic months. In addition to their massive duties on any normal day, these dedicated individuals have had to put themselves in harm’s way, especially in this time of COVID.
Responding to routine calls puts our police, EMS personnel and firefighters at heightened risk. This has resulted in additional efforts on their part, and additional expenditures. For example, our local fire companies have had to “sanitize” their equipment and vehicles, each time they respond to a call.
Being a member of the Veteran’s Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee enables me to work with my colleagues in a bi-partisan way to support these good people.
My colleagues and I get to work first-hand with those who perform works of public safety. Meeting with their leadership, and meeting with the individuals on the front line, allows me the opportunity to understand their concerns and issues.
As the wife of a firefighter, I believe I have a great deal of first-hand knowledge, but then I speak with other first responders and obtain even more details about the problems they face.
The issues facing these workers have only heightened in the past seven months and the committee has worked hard to address the matters that affect first responders the most.
Most recently, the House has considered Bills that would make training more affordable and accessible and has worked to expand and increase loan limits. Grants have been made available for COVID related PPE, and other grants have been reauthorized to benefit fire and EMS companies.
Most importantly from the standpoint of direct impact, critical fundraising has been halted for many of the departments. Any efforts that would have taken place in the spring and summer were shut down. Halls could not be rented, and clubs had to be shuttered. On the good side, many departments have become very creative in how they handle fundraising when in-person events are not possible.
Virtual events have taken over in the departments in our District. Virtual raffles, virtual purse bashes, virtual sports bashes, and the like, are on the rise as fire and EMS departments try to make ends meet. Follow your local department on Facebook for events and send in your annual gift to the boot drives that are taking place by mail or online.
On Oct. 8, new grants were released to further help fire and EMS departments that have been negatively affected by COVID-19. I am pleased to share the list of those in the District that will be receiving much needed funds:
Ben Avon Fire Company, Bower Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Carnegie Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Coraopolis Volunteer Fire Department, East Carnegie Volunteer Fire Department, Emsworth Volunteer Fire Company, Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department, Glendale Hose Company No. 1, Kennedy Township Independent Volunteer Fire Department, Stowe Township Independent Hose Company No. 5, Moon Run Volunteer Fire Company, Neville Island General Volunteer Fire Department and Robinson Volunteer Fire Company. In addition, Robinson EMS received a grant.
These grants certainly are needed, and our work in Harrisburg allows us to make sure funding is available.
In several of these cases, assistance was needed to address and finalize the documentation, so that the grant process could proceed smoothly.
These are difficult times for all. It is important for us to take the time to support our first responders.
Financial support is certainly necessary but, please, whenever possible, take the time to offer them your personal thanks for their service and commitment.