Continuing his barnstorming tour, Gov. Josh Shapiro stopped in Lancaster on Wednesday to share his plans to create safer communities by investing $36 million for firefighters and EMS providers and another $50 million for county 9-1-1 systems.
“Every Pennsylvanian deserves to be safe and feel safe in their community, and creating safer communities across the Commonwealth starts by investing in the first responders and law enforcement personnel who always have our backs – which is a top priority for my Administration,” said Shapiro.
“My budget proposes critical investments of $36 million for EMS and fire services – including equipment, training, and salaries – and more than $50 million for 9-1-1 communications systems. These are commonsense solutions – and we must tackle these challenges together to deliver for our first responders.”
Pennsylvania is facing a shortage of firefighters, first responders, and EMS providers across the local communities and counties who rely on these critical workers to help keep their communities safe. In 2018, Pennsylvania had 22,000 fewer volunteer firefighters than in the early 2000s and at least 6,000 fewer emergency medical technicians compared to 2012, while 20 percent of full-time 9-1-1 communications jobs are currently unfilled statewide.
“A lot of mayors, township supervisors, and other folks across Pennsylvania will tell you that providing public safety services to their residents is an immense financial challenge,” Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace. “We need partnership to be able to ensure that we’re able to meet the most basic needs of Pennsylvanians every day, and we are looking to the Governor and appreciate his partnership coming here today and helping us bring this message to Harrisburg. Governor Shapiro’s budget offers needed support to cities like Lancaster to maintain and elevate our fire bureau’s work.”
The budget proposal calls for a $36 million increase for emergency management and fire services, including equipment, training and salaries to support them and grow the ranks. Also included in the budget is over $50 million for 9-1-1 emergency communications systems, as well as a $1.5 million investment in the Municipal Assistance Program that would support local governments and help counties share resources to implement emergency support services and lead community revitalization efforts.
During his visit, Governor Shapiro met with firefighters from the City of Lancaster’s Fire Bureau and members of the International Association of Firefighters and the Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association to hear firsthand about the support they need from the Commonwealth.
“We must recognize the vital role that our firefighters, EMS providers, and 911 dispatch centers play in keeping our communities safe,” said Lancaster City Bureau of Fire Chief Todd Hutchinson. “Supporting firefighters and first responders with funding is an essential way to ensure that they have the resources they need to continue to protect our communities and keep us safe. I would like to thank Governor Shapiro for continuing to give our first responders the tools and resources needed to do our jobs.”
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has made funding 9-1-1 call centers one of their top legislative priorities for 2023. As a former county commissioner himself in Montgomery County, Shapiro said that the lessons learned from the experience have carried with him into the governor’s mansion.
“As a county commissioner, we didn’t have a lot of time to focus on partisan bickering,” he said. “I know the mayor doesn’t have time for that and, as governor, I sure as hell don’t have time for that. We’ve got to get back to legislating by bringing people together. We’ve got to get back to commonsense solutions. I think my training as a county commissioner has prepared me well for that. And I think the ideas that mayors, county commissioners and others have brought forward can bring Republicans and Democrats together. To stop the infighting, to stop the division. We’re going to get things done.”
Shapiro also had a holiday message for Pennsylvanians at the start of Passover and Holy Week.
“I want to wish everyone a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter. This should be a time of peace and happiness and celebration for you, your family and your friends. We’ll be opening up our doors to people from the Harrisburg community to join us in our passover seder. It is indeed an honor to live in the governor’s residence, to think about this great country we love in where people can practice their faith openly, know they will be respected for their faith, no matter who they worship or when or if they choose to worship at all.
“My message to all Pennsylvanians is we should value and embrace our freedom no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, or who you pray to. Pennsylvania should be a welcoming place for all.”