August 11, 2002

Schumer: Give FEMA Funds to Cops, Firefighters

By Joshua Robin

Federal money should go toward raises for New York City uniformed personnel, Sen. Charles Schumer demanded yesterday amid threats of a possible sick-out by police next month.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks worsened the city's finances and highlighted the role uniformed personnel play in fighting terrorism against the nation, Schumer said at a news conference, calling for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to defray costs of raises and pension adjustments.

"Since the hole in the city's budget is a direct result of 9/11, we should make use of the FEMA money to give these hard-working men and women the raise they deserve," Schumer said in prepared remarks.

He was flanked by officials from two unions - Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighter's Association. They spoke at the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side, which is next to Ladder 16 and Engine 39.

In response to Schumer's call, a spokesman for FEMA, James McIntyre, said: "FEMA has not been presented with the specifics of the request. However, in reviewing any requests that calls for FEMA to authorize funding, the request clearly needs to be [World Trade Center] disaster-related."

He added: "Any funding needs to be related to that disaster."

There has been talk by some cops of a sick-out on Labor Day. Police officers have worked without a new contract for two years, and are asking for a raise similar to the 22 percent bump recently given to city school teachers. The Fire Department is losing experienced members.

The federal government earmarked $21.4 billion to New York City after the terrorist attacks, including $10 billion in FEMA funds for rebuilding efforts, according to a spokesman for Schumer, Andy Katzman.

Schumer said the city would need to use only "a relatively small" $500 million to bring the pay raises up to the level demanded by police and firefighters.

Schumer also said the federal Office of Management and Budget recently rebuffed his request to use the FEMA funds for raises, prompting him to pen a letter to President George W. Bush.

"The city might not have the money to give our police officers and firefighters the raises they deserve, but FEMA certainly does," Schumer said in his remarks. "Let's use it to help these heroes."