Last month, the Town of Hempstead authorized more than $300,000 in relief grants to help local fire departments pay for coronavirus-related expenses incurred during the pandemic. Merrick Fire Department’s Friendship Engine & Hose Co. 2 was among several stations to receive a grant, which was made possible by funding through the federal CARES Act.
The initiative recognizes the ongoing efforts of first responders on the front lines, according to a town press release. At its Dec. 8 board meeting, councilmembers approved a more than $12,000 grant for Merrick’s Friendship company so it could recoup unbudgeted expenses related to pandemic response.
“If it wasn’t for this funding, we’d have to pull money from other areas of our budget — such as training or new equipment — to cover these expenses,” said ex-chief Ron Luparello, the department’s public information officer, “and the grant will preclude us from doing that.”
While Friendships’ total number of Covid-related expenses is unclear, Luparello said the grant would enable the company to recoup some of the money it spent on personal protective equipment and other supplies needed to keep firefighters and residents safe from the spread of Covid-19.
Each of the department’s volunteers “goes through a set of PPE on every call,” he explained. “No matter what the call is we have to wear it — you don’t know what you’re going in to.”
Luparello added that Merrick’s Empire Hose Co. 3 would submit a request to the town to receive CARES money in order to recoup some of its Covid-related expenses, as well. For example, Empire contracted a professional company to decontaminate ambulatory vehicles and the firehouse and purchased extra personal protective equipment to keep supplies stocked.
“We appreciate that the money is out there and that the Town of Hempstead is giving it to us,” Luparello said.
The authorization followed a string of similar initiatives by the town to use $133 million in CARES Act funding secured by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer last year. According to Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin, the money has also been used to provide:
- $5.5 million to local school districts.
- $4 million to local hospitals.
- $8 million to area colleges.
- $4 million for Covid-19 testing initiatives.
- $6 million for food pantries.
- $3.5 million for PPE distribution to benefit small business.
- More than a half million dollars to local villages.
“I would like to once again thank Sen. Schumer for his part in securing the funding for multiple initiatives like this one for first responders to remain safe and protected from Covid-19 as they continue to help our community,” Clavin said in the release. “America’s largest township will continue to do what it can to support its first responders and residents throughout this pandemic.”
“As a former police officer, I have seen the great personal sacrifices made by the first responder community to help keep their families, friends and neighbors safe,” said Councilman Christopher Carini, of the 5th District. “I am proud to partner with Supervisor Don Clavin and my colleagues on the Hempstead Town Board to provide federal CARES funds for local fire departments during this second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.”