Ciresi announces House passage of bills to support volunteer first responders

HARRISBURG, OCT. 24 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, today announced that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved several House bills this week that he had co-sponsored, as well as S.B. 146, to help volunteer emergency services solve the volunteer shortage crisis, while rewarding those who answer the call.

“These bills are about making sure that none of our fire, EMS or rescue volunteers are left behind,” Ciresi said. “We can’t ask so much from these heroes and then turn them away when they need us most. I am doing everything I can in Harrisburg to help get more support for our men and women who risk their lives to protect the life and property of our neighbors.”

Many of these bills came out of the recommendations contained in the SR 6 report, which noted that the number of volunteer firefighters fell from over 300,000 in the 1970s to just 36,000, with significant decreases in emergency medical services volunteers, as well.

“The sharp and continued drop in volunteerism for our fire and EMS companies highlights the urgent need for greater support for recruitment and retention,” Ciresi added.

The bills, which would expand support for emergency provider companies and reward first responders for their service, include:

  • Property Tax Relief for Volunteers (H.B. 1839, H.B. 1705) – allowing property tax credits of up to 100% for active members of volunteer fire companies and non-profit ambulance companies whose names are on their primary residence’s property tax bills – up to full property tax relief, depending on local ordinances and school districts.
  • Tuition Assistance and Student Loan Forgiveness for Volunteers (H.B. 1773, H.B. 1786) – creating programs for tuition assistance and student loan forgiveness for active members of volunteer fire companies and non-profit ambulance companies.
  • Expanding Firefighter’s Relief Funds (H.B. 1673) – making it easier for fire companies to use these dollars the best way they see fit in their communities, including investing in training, recruiting new members and recognizing those who’ve served a long time.
  • Ending Realty Transfer Taxes (H.B. 732, H.B. 269) – allowing property owned by companies or by active volunteers who have fallen in the line of duty to be transferred to a spouse or child without paying a Realty Transfer Tax.
  • Creating Online Training (S.B. 146) – developing free, certified, online training programs for firefighters to help our volunteers meet training requirements more conveniently and by taking less time out of their schedules.
  • Increase Loan Assistance Program Loan Limits (H.B. 1816) - Increasing the dollar amounts of the volunteer fire and EMS program that has been so successful in helping companies get vital safety equipment.
  • Ending the Liquor License Surcharge (H.B. 1048) – eliminating the $700 annual application surcharge to renew a liquor license for volunteer fire companies and national veterans’ organizations.

The state Senate is expected to act quickly on these measures and Gov. Tom Wolf will sign them into law. Ciresi also looks forward to the House considering more legislation to provide additional flexibility and funding for the fire and EMS grant program for facilities and training, among other support.

For more information, call Ciresi’s office at (484) 200-8265.