Great Neck’s Alert Fire Company will begin offering a pay-per-call stipend to its firefighters to improve the company’s response numbers after being awarded $257,117 in grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the aid of Congressman Thomas Suozzi.
Michael Green, chairman of Alert’s Board of Trustees, said that while the company’s membership is up, it can only muster about five members to respond to each of the 800 or so calls it receives per year. Alert will divvy the grant money up into $60,000 annual funds for four years (with an additional $2,700 per set aside for administration) so that qualifying volunteer firefighters will be able to receive a nominal stipend, which he estimated would be about $10 per call. Alert hopes the stipend will allow the company to average seven members per response.
“Long Island’s the last volunteer holdout in the country,” Green said. “Most areas have combination departments, some have pay-per call or pay-per shift. People don’t have time anymore, and the cost of living means most families need to have both members working. You’re not going to make a living doing this, but if we could stop our new members one night a week from having to work, then we should be able to hit our goal.”
Suozzi got involved with the application after Alert reached out for assistance following the denial of several consecutive grant proposals. The congressman commended Alert’s service record for the community in the press release announcing the receipt of the FEMA grant.
“Each year, Alert Fire Company’s volunteers answer hundreds of calls and save countless lives and property for the residents of Great Neck, including the grounds and equipment of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point,” Suozzi said. “The outstanding community service that they provide cannot be understated and this grant will go a long way in ensuring that the department maintains and continues its highest level of service to the Great Neck community.”
While the company itself expressed gratitude for Suozzi’s help in securing additional funds, Alert Benevolent Association member and Great Neck resident Michael Weinstock, a longtime firefighter who is running against Suozzi to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020, suspected the move was a disguised dig at his campaign.
“I think it’s awesome that Tom Suozzi helped secure this grant for the Alert Fire Department,” Weinstock said. “I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m running against him and the Alert Fire Department featured prominently in my announcement video. There are more than 100 firehouses in the district, and I am hopeful that team Suozzi will show the others a little love too.”