Fire Departments Face Funding, Staff Challenges Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

firefighter-920032_1920 - pixabay - 4.29.20Inability to host fundraising events, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and lack of volunteers are just some of the challenges fire companies are facing. 

As the country continues to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic, fire departments are. These impacts are particularly acute for volunteer companies which make up 80% of departments nationwide and rely on fundraising for revenue as well as for community engagement and recruitment.

From Route Fifty:

Fundraising accounts for roughly 15% of the operating budgets for more than 14,000 fire departments across the country that protect communities with populations of 2,500 or less, according to the National Fire Protection Association. For private nonprofit organizations, that percentage is typically even higher, Finger said.

“Volunteer departments, particularly smaller ones, rely on fundraising—in some cases for their entire budgets. And we’re hearing from a lot of departments that are having this issue, that they can’t raise money,” Finger said.

In a letter sent a couple of weeks ago to Maryland Budget Secretary David Brinkley on county priorities for implementation of federal CARES funding, MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson highlighted the importance to counties of supporting volunteer fire companies during this time:

Volunteer fire companies have been uniquely disrupted by this crisis – clarify the CARES funding to backstop them is properly reimbursable. Maryland’s volunteer fire and rescue companies have been denied their fundraising opportunities (public events, which are canceled) and are being left short-staffed (career/volunteer members overlap). Counties may need to target funds to help offset their direct costs, augment protective equipment, or otherwise support these disruptions. Ensuring that they may use federal fund allocations from the CARES Act would fully embolden these counties to do so, swiftly.

Further resources, either within forthcoming federal funds, or as a State priority, may yet be needed to maintain our excellent and precious network of volunteer first responders.

For more information:

Canceled Fundraisers, Fewer Volunteers: Small Fire Departments Face Their Own Coronavirus Challenges (Route Fifty)

Counties to DBM: Clarity w/CARES $ Will Help Save Lives (Conduit Street)

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