HARRISBURG – State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) recently voted in favor of a pair of bills that would help fire and EMS companies deal with some of the most significant financial and recruitment challenges they face today.
The package focuses on easing the financial pressures faced by fire and EMS companies due to increasing costs of equipment and training. The bills also address the dwindling number of volunteers and other personnel dedicated to providing emergency response in Pennsylvania communities.
“Our fire and EMS companies face enormous financial pressures due to the rising cost of equipment and training, as well as a dwindling number of volunteers in the emergency response community,” Sen. Yaw said. “These two programs are a critical part of the state’s ongoing efforts to help our first responders meet these challenges and continue their amazing efforts to protect our lives and property.”
Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance program to include career fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula.
Senate Bill 908 would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner.
The program was originally created with a bond issue that was approved by voters in 1976. The referendum would allow the state’s 22 paid companies and 72 combination paid and volunteer companies to access the program. In 2018, $55.1 million was distributed to over 2,500 municipalities to be turned over to fire relief associations.
Senate Bill 910 would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year.
The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.
According to the State Fire Commissioner, Pennsylvania currently has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state in the nation.
For more state-related news and information, visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff