Volunteer Fire Departments and Rescue Squads of the Upper Cumberland have a chance for more state funding next fiscal year.
State Senator Paul Bailey said the General Assembly significantly boosted an established grant program. Bailey said the body allocated an extra $4.5 million for volunteer fire departments and $2 million for rescue squads.
“A lot of these fire departments, small community fire departments especially in very rural counties, they just don’t have the means to be able to really stay up-to-date like they should,” Bailey said. “So, that was one of the reasons that we felt like it was necessary to continue this program.”
Bailey said Governor Bill Lee funded $500,000 for the volunteer fire department grant program last year. Bailey said the state saw over $5 million of requests statewide, so the General Assembly voted to increase the funding in the new budget.
“During the budgeting process, the Finance, Ways and Means Committee meets with individual members and talks about what these individual members see as a need in not only in their community, but also spread out across the state. Again, volunteer fire departments rose to the top,” Bailey said.
Bailey said the rescue squad fund was a new addition. Bailey said the grant process will be announced July 1st. Bailey said he anticipates applications to be quite competitive based on last year.
“There is more of a need out there than we actually have money, but again knowing from last year with the amount of requests that came in that it was $5 million worth of requests then that was something we had to go by,” Bailey said. “If we have more requests over the $5 million, then we’ll be able to look at maybe appropriating additional funds next year.”
Bailey said the funding will be funneled through the State Department of Commerce and Insurance. Bailey said applications will consider several factors such as financial condition, previous state grants and equipment needs.
“We were able to implement something last year, so it should be easy this year for the volunteer fire departments to follow the same process in applying for a grant again in the coming year,” Bailey said.