IAFC: Nearly 1K FFs Laid Off, Furloughed; 30K Projected

May 12, 2020
"Significant and meaningful federal funding is essential to prevent the largest cuts to fire and EMS since the Great Depression," said International Association of Fire Chiefs President Gary Ludwig.

Editor's note: Find Firehouse.com's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

COVID-19 is not only taking a physical toll on firefighters around the county, it's also taking a toll on their livelihoods, with nearly 1,000 fire department employees facing furloughs or layoffs and tens of thousands more expected.

“The same firefighters the country considered essential in battling COVID-19 are suddenly told they’re no longer needed,” Gary Ludwig, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said in a statement. “With almost 1,000 firefighters and support personnel missing from the front lines at this early stage, it’s clear these cuts will be deep and long-standing. Significant and meaningful federal funding is essential to prevent the largest cuts to fire and EMS since the Great Depression."

So far, 935 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics have been laid off or furloughed, according to the IAFC. A survey by the organization projects that as many as 30,000 fire department jobs could be lost this year and next.

“These losses mean our fire departments are less prepared to deal with COVID-19 and every other emergency. Fire and EMS stations will close," Ludwig said. "Our citizens will wait longer for help when they call 9-1-1."

The high unemployment rate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic also is having a detrimental effect on volunteer fire departments. Donations are down, and fundraisers have been cancelled, which could force some volunteer departments to close, according to the IAFC.

To help mitigate the financial damage, the IAFC is asking federal lawmakers to earmark $10 billion for fire departments. The best way to do this, according to the organization is through Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) and Assistance for Firefighters Grants (AFG).

“As we continue to mourn the loss of our fallen brothers and sisters and worry about other firefighters who’ve lost their jobs, our focus—as alwaysis on the people we serve," Ludwig said. "Without federal help, our fellow citizens will suffer as they wait longer for fire and EMS to arrive. Congress and The White House are the only ones who can prevent this from happening. Firefighters need heroes too. We need Congress and The White House to act now.”

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