WEST CHESTER (June 21, 2019) – Legislation introduced by state Senator Andy Dinniman to help volunteer fire companies attract and retain members unanimously passed the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this week.
Senate Bill 447 allows volunteer firefighter relief associations to establish Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAP) to provide tax-deferred income benefits to active volunteer members. The bill will also ensure that sufficient funds are available for the assistance, protection, and training in order for an association to establish a LOSAP.
“This bill would cost nothing to the taxpayers. It simply allows relief associations to establish LOSAPs as an incentive in recruiting new members and retaining existing ones,” Dinniman said. “This is permitted in other states and we should allow associations that are financially able to establish them in Pennsylvania.”
The struggle to recruit and retain volunteers is the foremost issue facing fire, ambulance, and emergency services today, Dinniman said. Over the past forty years, the number of volunteer firefighters statewide has plummeted from an estimated 300,000 to less than 40,000, according to the Office of the Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner.
“A LOSAP is just one of multiple tools we should consider to help bolster the ranks of our volunteer fire companies,” he said. “Again, it doesn’t cost anything, but it could help save taxpayers billions. According to studies, volunteer departments save Pennsylvania more than $7 billion a year.”