WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WTVO) — First responders are looking for funds that they feel they deserve.
The American Rescue Plan Act gave $54 million to Winnebago County to disperse, and fire protection districts explained Tuesday night why they feel they deserve a share. They feel like they were passed over by the county and are hoping to receive some funding as the county enters Phase 4 of the ARP plan.
“We feel like we should’ve been one of the first ones in line since we were the front-line responders during COVID,” said Jerry Caskey, fire chief for Northwest Fire Protection District and vice president of the Winnebago Fire Chiefs Association.
Caskey is upset over the distribution of the funds. The county received millions in COVID relief, but the fire department did not get any help.
“Through the American Rescue Plan Act, Winnebago County received $54 million with a portion of that money to be used as funding for providers relating to COVID-19,” Caskey said. “Tens of millions of dollars have been handed out by this county, and yet the fire districts have been severely neglected.”
The money is to address the unprecedented COVID-19 health and economy recovery. Caskey said that they were on the front line during the pandemic.
“We were dealing with a virus that no one knew anything about, so we had to come up with new, innovative ways to treat patients,” he said.
While the fire department are not in any financial trouble, they said that the funds would go to some much needed improvements.
“All the fire districts have been able to continue on,” Caskey said. “However, these funds that were made available to the county can help these fire protection districts get to another level.”
The county left it up to board members to disperse some of the money, and five local stations did get a portion. Both sides are now looking to move forward and find a solution.
“We’ve had discussions at our finance committee about being reached, about potential funding for the fire departments,” said Jaime Salgado, finance committee chairperson.
“We thank you for your time tonight and trust that your consideration into this matter will be met with utmost importance,” Caskey added.
Caskey said that funds would help buy fire equipment, ambulances, fire engines and capital improvements for certain stations.