FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Meredith Kelly
March 07, 2013 202.224.7433
SCHUMER PUSHES TWO-PRONGED PLAN TO RECRUIT MORE VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS & PROVIDE FEDERAL INCENTIVES FOR UPSTATE NY’S FIRST RESPONDERS TO CONTINUE LIFESAVING WORK
Schumer Urges Senate Colleagues to Support Two Pieces of Legislation That Strengthens Service Award Programs & Provides Tax Benefits for Volunteer Firefighters
Majority of New York Volunteer Fire Departments Rely on These Programs to Recruit and Retain Volunteers – Schumer has Fought for Reauthorization of Property Tax Benefit Since It Expired in 2010
Schumer: Federal Government Must Stand Behind Our Heroic Volunteer FFs
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed a two-pronged bipartisan plan to provide a property tax benefit for volunteer emergency service personnel, and to strengthen and clarify the length of service award programs (LOSAPs) in the federal tax code for the over 100,000 volunteer emergency responders in New York. First, Schumer is introducing the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (VRIPA) of 2013 with Sen. Collins to exclude state and local property tax benefits from federal income, as well as $600 of any other benefit provided to volunteer firefighters like housing assistance or tuition assistance. Schumer has long led the charge on this benefit for volunteers, and has fought for its reauthorization since it expired in 2010.
Second, Schumer noted that the LOSAPs, are ambiguously described in the existing tax code, and their treatment has not been updated since 1996. At the same time, Schumer emphasized that 20 percent of volunteer fire fighters rely on LOSAPs, which are pension-like programs intended to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance squad members. In these programs volunteers are financially rewarded based upon the number of years they serve. In order to revamp the LOSAPs, Schumer is cosponsoring the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act of 2013 with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and feels confident this plan could help keep Upstate New York’s volunteer firefighters on the job for the long-term and also create incentives for new volunteer first responders.
“Upstate New York’s volunteer first responders risk their lives every day to protect their communities and they ask for nothing in return,” said Schumer. “While I am glad that the federal government has programs in place to recruit and retain our volunteer fire fighters, some of these programs are too vague and outdated for our heroes to take full advantage of them. I am urging my colleagues in the Senate to provide property tax benefits to our volunteers, and to revamp the length of service award programs for our volunteer emergency service personnel so they can receive our full thanks upon the completion of their service.”
Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council, praised the reintroduction of these important pieces of legislation. “I’d like to thank Senator Schumer for introducing the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act,” said Stittleburg. “There is no greater challenge facing the volunteer emergency services today than recruitment and retention and this critical legislation will give local agencies and governments much-needed flexibility to implement incentive programs that work for their community.”
Many communities around New York State rely on volunteer firefighters and EMS providers for much-needed public services, but it is getting harder and harder to find people to fill the slots because middle-class families have increasing demands on their time, or financial concerns that preclude their participation. While many local governments understand the need for a recruitment initiative, most simply do not have the resources to implement one. At the same time, our firefighters are often on the front lines of the War on Terror, and essential to our homeland security. Moreover, every single day we rely on volunteer firefighters to save residential and commercial property, and to clean up accidents and reopen our highways, all of which protects the economic prosperity of many of our communities.
Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 exempts from federal income tax any property tax benefit and up to $600 of any other type of benefit given by a state or local government to volunteer emergency responders as a recruitment or retention tool.
LOSAP is a retirement account designed for volunteer emergency responders that nearly 20 percent of the 768,500 volunteer firefighters in the United States are enrolled in. Many communities provide modest financial incentives to their volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to boost recruitment and retention and LOSAP is one of the most popular benefits.