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Senator Also Announces New, Bipartisan Bill To Provide Federal Funding To Hire 75,000 New Firefighters Nationwide ,

Standing in Front of Engine Co.1, Schumer Joined by Over 100 New York City Firefighters, as well as the Twin Sister of Father Judge, and Father Keenan, the Successor to Father Judge

Standing in front of the Engine Co. 1 where New York City Fire Department Chaplain, Franciscan Friar Mychal Judge dined every evening, and joined by Dympna Jessich, the twin sister of Father Judge, Father Christopher Keenan, the successor to Father Judge, and over 100 New York City firefighters, US Senator Chuck Schumer called on President Bush to award the US Medal of Freedom to Father Judge, the beloved Chaplain who was killed by falling debris from the World Trade Center while giving last rites to injured and fallen firefighters. Father Judge's funeral was attended by over 2,000 mourners on September 15, 2001, with more lining the streets outside the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which is located across the street from Engine Co. 1. Schumer was joined in his request by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Schumer also announced new, bipartisan legislation to provide federal funding to hire 75,000 new firefighters nationwide. The bill - known as The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Act of 2001 - was introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and provides $8 billion in grants over seven years to local fire departments to hire new firefighters and provide additional resources to help protect firefighters. Schumer is an original co-sponsor of the bill.

"Whether it's honoring the memory of Father Judge with the US Medal of Freedom or providing much needed federal funding to hire over 75,000 new firefighters across New York and across the nation, our firefighters have always been there for us every step of the way - and not just since September 11, and we need to be there for them," Schumer said. "It's one thing to express our appreciation for our firefighters in words. It's another in deeds, and that's what we're hoping to accomplish with this legislation, and with this request to the President."

Since 1992, Father Judge served as the Catholic Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, ministering to firefighters and victims in need of spiritual guidance. Best known for his service to AIDS victims, Father Judge built his career around tending to the sick, homeless and disabled. When TWA Flight 800 went down over Long Island, Father Judge helped console the emergency workers as well as the families of the victims.

Father Judge was born in Brooklyn and joined the Franciscan Friars in 1955. He was an assistant to the president of Siena College in Loudonville, NY before becoming pastor of St. Joseph's Church in West Milford, NH, in 1979. In 1986, he became a pastor at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in Manhattan, and six years later, he joined the New York City Fire Department.

In their letter to President Bush requesting the US Medal of Freedom for Father Judge, Schumer and Clinton wrote, "On that tragic day in September, Father Judge died as he lived - serving others. Among the first arriving units at the World Trade Center, Father Judge was advised to move to a safer location, but he refused to leave his compatriots. When the firefighters entered the building, Father Judge was at their side, where he remained offering comfort and absolution until the end. It is my hope that you will honor Father Judge's service to New York City and to the country by awarding him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

The US Medal of Freedom was created by President Harry S. Truman as the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 6, 1945 to reward civilians for meritorious acts of service related to war. On February 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order naming the award the US Medal of Freedom and establishing the criteria, which is simply making a great contribution towards: (1) the security or national interests of the United States; (2) world peace; or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Only Presidents, at their sole discretion, can award the US Medal of Freedom. President Reagan awarded 85 Medals of Freedom - the most of any President -- during his eight years in office, followed by President Clinton with 83 during his eight years in office. President George W. Bush has not awarded any in his administration to date.

Sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Schumer and Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), among others, the SAFER bill creates a seven year grant program run by the US Department of Labor that pays up to 75% of the annual salary of new firefighters. Any local government can apply for SAFER grants. Applicants must demonstrate the need for federal assistance as well as their long term hiring strategy. Applicants can apply in any year during the program's existence, so even if a Fire Department doesn't need federal funding for new employees this year or next year, the option remains to participate in future years.

"It shouldn't take a tragedy like September 11 for people to realize how much our safety and security depends on our firefighters," Schumer said. "The better staffed and the better equipped our Fire Departments are, the safer we'll be, and the safer they'll be. It's that simple."