Firefighters from the Peñitas Fire Department will receive some help as they continue protecting their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a virtual Monday press conference, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) announced $13,928.57 in federal funds to the City of Peñitas Fire Department. These funds, awarded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Supplemental, will be used to support the health of firefighters during the COVID-19 pandemic by purchasing PPE for them.
“During these unprecedented times, we need to support our brave firefighters that are on the front lines, risking their lives to protect our community,” Cuellar said. “This federal investment will provide our fire department with the necessary resources to ensure our first responders have safe working conditions. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I remain steadfast in my support for our courageous firefighters and first responders as we continue to combat this virus.”
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Cuellar helped secure $100 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grant in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for the purchase of PPE to first responders, according to a news release.
Since 2001, the AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.
“We’re going through unknown territory so we couldn’t budget for any of these items,” Peñitas Fire Chief Leroy Salinas said Monday on the need for PPE for his firefighters. “Now our firefighters will be protected while they’re out on call.”
According to Salinas, his department has been struggling with responding to emergencies in the last few months due to a lack of resources.
“We’ve been utilizing some equipment from the state but we have been struggling,” Salinas said. “This grant came at a great time and can pick up the necessities we feel we need. This is an unknown virus for us, you don’t have to be a paramedic to know you have to be covered. We appreciate the help.”
According to Cuellar the grant is a reimbursement grant that the city will receive as soon as city council members take the necessary steps to complete the paperwork to sign a memo of understanding with FEMA.
The only other city that received this grant in the state was San Antonio.
“But the state is holding out on more than $7.5 billion that must be used as aid for cities and counties, that must be now during this pandemic,” Cuellar said, adding that Congress is working on a second bill to send more financial relief to citizens across the country.
“We want to hand the money over directly to cities and counties,” Cuellar said. “More money is coming.”
According to Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero, the city has already approved the purchase of PPE for firefighters.
“Obviously we don’t normally budget for respirators, gloves, masks and thermometers as an ordinary course of business so these grants will go a long way to budget for these things,” Romero said. “We’ve been affected like everyone else, unfortunately COVID came out of nowhere and adapting to it not only from a first responder perspective but operating as a city has been hard. Our city has been impacted just like everyone else and the fire department still has to respond to deaths in homes or COVID positive patients along with EMS and the police department. We definitely appreciate the support we’ve received as a city to get through these things.”