House unanimously passes Sainato bill to extend, expand Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program

Program would be expanded to fund volunteer recruitment efforts

HARRISBURG, Oct. 28 – Pennsylvania’s Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program is set to expire next summer, but a bill the House passed unanimously today would extend the program and expand its use to fund volunteer recruitment efforts, according to the author, state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence.

Sainato, who is Democratic chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said he introduced H.B. 1834 to preserve a critical program and address an urgent need.

“Our fire and EMS companies rely on these grants to fund critical resources, including protective equipment and training,” Sainato said. “My bill would extend the program for another four years and expand its use to address another urgent need – recruiting and retaining volunteers. In addition, it would allow fire companies to save grant money for up to five years to help finance the construction of new facilities.

“The SR 6 Commission’s report last year detailed an alarming decline in volunteer first responders and recommended the grant program as an ideal resource for funding recruitment efforts. We need to do whatever we can to build back the ranks of volunteers before this becomes a public safety issue. Offering recruitment and retention initiatives such as length-of-service programs that financially reward volunteers would be a great step in the right direction.”

Sainato’s bill is his second emergency volunteer recruitment proposal to advance this month. On Oct. 23, the House unanimously passed H.B. 1786, which would provide indebted college students loan forgiveness of $4,000 per year, up to $16,000, in exchange for a specific period of volunteer service.

House Bill 1834 now heads to the state Senate for consideration.