NJ Congressional Delegation request support for First Responders to fight COVID-19
Dear Mr. President:
As members of New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation, we write to request your support for our state’s first responders as we fight the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. New Jersey’s brave career law enforcement officers, fire departments, and other first responders are facing serious challenges due to the spread of COVID-19. Many towns in our state also rely on some or all-volunteer fire departments, ambulance corps, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS)/rescue personnel, which also require critical assistance to avoid staffing and equipment shortages during this unprecedented crisis.
First, many of our local public safety departments urgently need additional personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, isolation gowns, goggles, face shields, and surgical gloves. These items are critical not only for local EMS departments, but also to help police, fire, and other immediate first responders protect themselves from exposure to coronavirus when they arrive on the scene. It is therefore critical that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services fulfills the full request made by the State of New Jersey for these items from the Strategic National Stockpile, and that adequate amounts of these items be provided to our EMTs, police, and fire personnel.
Second, many local fire and emergency services departments are already or will likely experience growing staffing shortages due to the continued spread of the virus, and the lack of available testing. Police, firefighters and other first responders are among the most at-risk for exposure to COVID-19. We simply cannot afford for our brave public safety personnel to be unable to work due to exposure to the virus, or to unwittingly infect coworkers because they are unable to be tested. That is why it is critical that testing be immediately made available to those serving on the front lines of our nation’s emergency response. We are also urging Congressional leadership to provide for emergency AFG and SAFER grants to support fire and EMS departments facing severe staffing and supply shortages due to the coronavirus.
Third, we encourage you to take all measures necessary to help our state meet the unique challenges faced by volunteer departments threatened by staffing shortages and in need of supplemental EMTs and trained medical personnel. According to the Nation Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), “many volunteer firefighters and EMS and rescue personnel are employed as emergency responders for a different department and then volunteer in their home communities when they are off-duty. As career public safety agencies experience high demand for services coupled with personnel being placed into quarantine, the need for paid staff is likely to increase. This will lead to reduced staffing capacity for many volunteer emergency services agencies even if they have not yet experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 locally.”
Thank you for your consideration of our request for this desperately needed support for New Jersey’s local law enforcement officers, fire departments, EMS personnel, and all first responders. We look forward to working with you and the federal government to make sure our municipalities and local emergency services have what they need to protect and serve our communities during this global pandemic.
Josh Gottheimer, Member of Congress
Bill Pascrell, Jr.,
Donald M. Payne, Jr., Member of Congress
Bonnie Watson Coleman, Member of Congress
Andy Kim, Member of Congress
Tom Malinowski, Member of Congress
Mikie Sherrill, Member of Congress
Jefferson Van Drew, Member of Congress