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Rensselaer County will be providing assistance to fire and ambulance organizations across the county, with funds coming from savings achieved during 2020, County Executive Steve McLaughlin and members of the County Legislature announced today.

A resolution for the creation of the Rensselaer County Responds fund was filed with the County Legislature this week. The fund will include $1.2 million, with the majority of funds going to volunteer fire and ambulance companies.

The funding for the Rensselaer County Responds comes from $18 million in savings achieved by the county last year. The county also announced this week a portion of funding would be used for the Drive for 65, which seeks to pave 65 miles of county roads in 2021. The county set a record by paving 50 miles of roads in 2020.

“Our fire and ambulance companies are always ready to help those in need or facing an emergency. We are reminded every day of their outstanding service to those who live and work in Rensselaer County,” said McLaughlin.

“The Rensselaer County Responds fund will help ensure our volunteer fire and ambulance companies are able to continue to deliver a high level of service for our resident and respond when needed,” added McLaughlin.

The funds from the Rensselaer County Responds fund will provide a one-time grant to all active volunteer and ambulance companies in the county.

Additional funds will also be provided by the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency to fire and ambulance companies to cover costs of PPE and other special materials related to response for the pandemic.

The special Rensselaer County Responds funding recognizes the increased costs incurred by fire and ambulance companies during the pandemic, including loss of income from fundraising. Many fundraising activities for fire and ambulance companies were interrupted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am extremely excited and thankful to County Executive Steve McLaughlin for the implementation of this program. When I approached the County Executive about the financial pressure that volunteer agencies were facing because of COVID-19, he listened and did not hesitate to help. Working together with Steve and his team, a support plan was established to keep our emergency first responders solvent and strong. I cannot emphasize enough the appreciation we have for the Rensselaer Responds Program”, said Legislator Bruce Patire- Eagle Bridge.

“These volunteer heroes perform life-saving tasks every day, and we are glad that the county is in a position to provide them this critical financial assistance”, said Legislator Tom Grant- East Greenbush.

“Fire departments across the county were faced with numerous unbudgeted expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This funding will allow us to have a bit more breathing room during the pandemic recovery.  I know I speak on behalf of the volunteer fire service in thanking County Executive Steve McLaughlin and the Rensselaer County Legislature for their commitment and their support of the fire service in Rensselaer County,” said East Greenbush Fire Department Chief Jeff Tooker.

“The pandemic presented many new challenges for fire and ambulance companies, including challenges with raising funds to help cover costs for our operations. The help from Rensselaer County will be welcome and we thank County Executive McLaughlin and members of the County Legislature for their assistance,” said Castleton Fire Chief Matt Carner.

“Most fire and ambulance companies operate on very tight budgets. The help from the county is needed and will help keep local emergency services equipped and functional in 2021 and beyond. We appreciate the assistance from Rensselaer County,” said Stephentown Fire Chief David Corlew.

“Rural fire departments like ours have faced real difficulty with funding during the pandemic because of the interruption to our fundraising for over a year. We appreciate the help and attention by Rensselaer County, County Executive McLaughlin and the County Legislature as we navigate a return to normalcy and face new challenges,” said North Hoosick Fire Department Chief Alan Bornt.