Budget layoffs of firefighters might trigger problems with federal grants used to hire new recruits

Like the fires they face, layoffs of Cincinnati's bravest are hard to stop.

Monday morning, Cincinnati City Solicitor John Curp announced the city was past the point of being able to stop layoffs because of a budget deadline that is a week away.

For 120 firefighters that means layoffs, many paid for by federal grants.

Since 2012, $13 million in federal grants paid for 80 new recruits to join the department. Under guidelines for that grant "grantees for the hiring category are required to maintain their staffing and incur no layoffs during the two year period of performance."

"It's very simple," Curp said. "Here's money. Keep them for two years, it pays at 100 percent. If you lay anybody off, gotta pay it back."

In addition, budget cuts could also mean the fire department would have to repay $1.6 million spent to potentially hire 40 new recruits.

An authority for the fire administration confirmed that the layoffs would nullify the grant.

"People will not be safe if this goes through," firefighter union president Matt Alter said. "Half the Cincinnati fire department could potentially be closed."

Specifically, Alter said, up to 20 fire companies may go dark.

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