McLaughlin and Legislators Say Funding Will First Help Fire and Ambulance Companies

The Rensselaer County Legislature approved a resolution at the June 8 regular monthly meeting to establish the Rensselaer County Recovers fund, to help community organizations across the county recover from the pandemic, County Executive Steve McLaughlin and members of the County Legislature announced.

The funding will be first used to assist volunteer fire and ambulance companies across the county with expenses related to the COVID-19 response and a reduction in revenues in fundraising and other areas.

Funding comes from the $18 million in savings achieved by the county during 2020. The Rensselaer County Responds fund includes $1.2 million, with the majority of funds to go to fire and ambulance companies. The remainder of funds will be used for youth and community organizations.

“The Rensselaer County Recovers fund will help those organizations who give so much of their time and effort to protect our county and strengthen our quality of life. This is a way to put our savings, which belong to the people, back out into the community,” said McLaughlin.

“We are proud to have achieved these savings, and we are equally proud to be able to put these savings to work for everyone’s benefit,” added McLaughlin.

“I know this funding will be appreciated and welcomed by fire and ambulance companies across the county. These organizations have tight budgets and the pandemic has hit some very hard in the pocketbook,” said Chair of the Legislature Mike Stammel.

Announcements on the distribution of the funding will be made in the coming days.

McLaughlin and majority legislators did take issue with the opposition to the resolution by five of the six members of the Democratic legislative minority at the June 8 meeting. They noted the county has accumulated savings above the average over the past three years, with the savings reported annually.

“Funding for our first responders and our community organizations should not be a political issue. It is unfortunate Democrats did not join the spirit of this resolution, which is to use real savings in 2020 to help those who help us every day,” said McLaughlin.

“It is unfortunate to see the Democrats call the funding for our volunteer firefighters and emergency first responders “Pork”.  Our first responders have gone above and beyond during the pandemic, and have suffered financial losses because of additional costs, and the lack of ability to raise funds.  It was a sad day to see all of the Democrats vote against establishing a Community Program Grant Fund to provide critical funding to support those who protect us,” said Vice Chair Kelly Hoffman.

“As a member of the North Hoosick Fire Department, I would not call any funding we receive “slush funds”.  Our call volume and our costs have gone up, and we haven’t been able to raise money through our traditional means. A vote against this funding is a slap in the face to every volunteer first responders in Rensselaer County,” said Legislator Bruce Patire.

“As a volunteer firefighter for years, I am very disappointed Democrats made this a political issue,” added Stammel.