Scranton (PA) city officials have decided to return a third of the $8.2 million federal grant received last month, reports The Times Tribune.
The grant was enough to pay for calling back 29 laid-off firefighters plus one on military leave and for adding 20 new firefighters -- a total of 50 -- for two years, but it was decided to decline the money for new firefighters. The city could not afford to keep paying them after the two years and would have to pay unemployment benefits when they were laid off.
It is unclear whether the city will be able to afford to keep all the other 29 after two years.
The city is self-insured for unemployment compensation insurance, meaning it pays all unemployment claims.
The city has 113 firefighters, Fire Chief Tom Davis stated. The 29 laid-off firefighters include 12 who were recalled in March after a slow response to an East Mountain fire convinced the mayor to call them back to work. The response was slowed by the rotating closing of firehouses because of a lack of firefighters.
The grant is a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Department of Homeland Security. SAFER grants help communities comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.