City of Fall River

Challenge

Fall River, Massachusetts is the tenth largest city in the state, with a population of around 90,000. Facing severe budget constraints, including cuts of nearly 44 percent to its fire department’s total operating budget over the past three fiscal years, the city implemented a plan to lay off 79 firefighters in total. Not only was this problematic for the workers involved, but this precipitous drop in funding to the department threatened the overall safety of the city. As a result, The Mayor’s office engaged O’Neill and Associates to help garner Congressional support for a grant application to keep the department fully staffed.

Solution

O’Neill and Associates developed a comprehensive government relations plan to secure funding for Fall River. Our firm successfully identified a grant for the city entitled “Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response” (SAFER), a program of The Federal Emergency Management Agency dedicated to hiring and retaining firefighters. We presented the case to lawmakers, facilitating meetings between the Mayor, City Administrator, and Fire Chief and Senators Kerry and Brown, as well as Congressmen Barney Frank, Jim McGovern and Bill Keating. The delegation played a critical role in augmenting Fall River Fire Department’s application with direct appeals to the highest levels of FEMA through letters, phone calls and in-person meetings. O’Neill and Associates also worked with IAFF Local 1314, the union representing Fall River’s fire fighters, to further bolster the grant application.

Results

As a result of the efforts of O’Neill and Associates, FEMA granted the Fall River Fire Department with the largest award in the program’s history, nearing $14.5 million. These new funds were enough to keep the fire department fully staffed for the next two fiscal years.

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