Firefighters rally against stop in grants

DOVER — While lawmakers ate dinner and prepared to take the floor for the final legislative day of the year, about 60 volunteer firefighters gathered outside Legislative Hall to protest cuts in funding.

The Joint Finance Committee eliminated all funding for nonprofits, including fire companies, on Wednesday, leading to phone calls, emails and protests from many nonprofits and the people who depend on their services.

Fire companies received $5.9 million in funding through grant-in-aid last fiscal year, and as of 8 p.m., legislators had not reached a deal that would lead to additional revenue and money for nonprofits.

The dozens of firefighters standing on the east side of the state capitol were left to wait and hope that by the time the sun rose today, funding would be available.

“For the life of me I can’t understand why we have to wait until the last day,” Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association Executive Manager Warren Jones said.

Warren Jones, Excutive Manager of Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association speaks at Legislative Hall during the firefighters rally in Dover on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

He said most of the state’s fire companies would not cut services if they do not receive grant-in-aid funding but would have to cut back on equipment purchases. The elimination would impact every station differently, hitting smaller companies particularly hard, he said.

Several firetrucks were parked near Legislative Hall, and almost every attendee at the rally wore uniforms or shirts displaying the name of a fire company.

The 64 companies that make up the DVFA save lives every day, Mr. Jones said, relaying harrowing stories of his decades as a firefighter. Members are like “family,” he told the crowd.

Firefighters attend the rally on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

House Democrats on Thursday night presented a proposal that would raise income taxes on top earners and halve itemized deductions for everyone, but Republicans were infuriated by the bill, which they felt was sprung on them.

Members of the GOP minority walked out of the House chamber in protest before the vote, and while both parties continued to hope grant-in-aid could be restored, uncertainty swirled.

Mr. Jones did not place fault at the feet of either party but implored lawmakers to find a way.

“We’re not here to blame any party. We’re not here to blame any person,” he said. “We’re here to ask that grant-in-aids be restored to the level it was supposed to be every year.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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