Cleveland officials have rejected a $4.5 million SAFER grant that would have saved 51 firefighters from being laid off, according to The Plain Dealer
If the grant is accepted by the May 26 deadline, FEMA funds would be used to pay the salaries of 31 firefighters while the city would be required to retain 20 others facing layoffs as well as keep all of the firefighters for more than two years.
When the fire department applied for the grant, it said money to pay the salaries of the other 20 firefighters could come from limiting overtime among other cuts.
Cleveland would be required to repay the grant if it laid off any firefighters during the two-year period.
The agency was asked to waive the conditions of the grant, but the request was denied, Finance Director Sharon Dumas told the newspaper.
On Thursday, several City Council members pushed the administration to reverse its decision.
Council members predicted that the city will find the money for the additional firefighters and it if can't attrition will make room for them.
Around 75 firefighters rallied on the steps of City Hall demanding officials accept the grant.
"Local 93 and the Fire Administration have been working for weeks to find a solution for the city other than the layoffs," President Tom Lally said in a statement. "By using the grant funding and restructuring the division, Fire Chief (Paul) Stubbs submitted a deployment plan to balance the budget and maintain service without layoffs. Those were the Mayor's stated goals, but the city has yet to accept the chief's solution."
In the statement, he detailed the union's willingness to work with the city and effect the layoff would have on the safety of residents.
"We have consistently worked with the city to maintain the highest level of service while keeping our members safe. Turning down this grant money could have dire consequences for residents, businesses, visitors and our members. We urge the mayor to accept the grant money and help maintain safety and service for everyone in Cleveland."
The scheduled layoffs are part of larger budget cuts that will eliminate 321 employees including 81 police officers and 42 police cadets.
The layoffs will leave the city with 1,454 police and 785 firefighters, according to The Plain-Dealer.
The City Council's Safety Committee reviewed the plans this morning.
Firehouse.com will provide more information on this story as it becomes available.