We owe our first responders

To the Editor:

Over the last few months, we’ve seen tremendous displays of bravery, support, and selflessness across our region from all corners of our community. However, few groups have inspired us more than our first responders.

And with May 18th kicking off National EMS Week, it’s important that we thank them for their service and elevate the fight for better protections as we enter into the next phase of this crisis.

Our first responders risk their lives every day, even forced to work without adequate personal protective equipment, because they care about our communities. Many have stayed sheltered away from their families — living in in-law apartments, tents in the backyard, vacation campers, or in the basement — to keep their loved ones safe.

Despite the sacrifice of time, of comfort, and any semblance of normalcy, they continue to push forward.

As we begin our slow transition to reopening our economy and start to put the pieces of our lives back together again, it’s important that we remember the challenges they’ve faced. We must work to make a plan to protect them in the future and understand the trauma that this chapter in our history has caused.

We need to fight for additional resources to support our first responders:

— Providing every first responder with adequate hazard pay to compensate them for their risk and sacrifice;

— Offering free professional courses and tuition at community colleges and State University of New York schools;

— Furthering tax incentives to ensure they can afford to live in the communities they serve;

— Ensuring a wide range of free in-person and virtual mental-health services to first responders and their families; and

— Conducting a state-wide survey of first responders to hear their opinions on how to help them in the future.

These will help show our appreciation and provide stability in these trying times. This is by no means enough, but it’s a start.

It’s our responsibility now to protect them. To make our first responders feel safe, secure, and remembered.

We owe it to them to do our best and fight for their jobs in the face of severe budget cuts and fight for funding to make sure they never walk into a crisis unprepared again.

I promise to advocate for these things and I hope you’ll join me. We’re all stronger when we stand together.

Michelle Hinchey

Saugerties

Editor’s note: Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat, is a candidate to represent District 46 in the New York State Senate.

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