Senator James L. Seward today announced he’s filed legislation in the senate that is designed to improve the recruitment and retention of voluntary firefighters, especially important to the state’s rural areas.
Seward’s legislation provides a personal income tax credit for every active volunteer firefighter and EMT (Senate bill 1333).
"The state continues to see a shortage of volunteer firefighters and EMTs, particularly in our rural areas. Recruiting and keeping volunteers is difficult for many reasons, including time and economics," Seward, chairman of the Senate Task Force on Emergency Voluntary Services, said. "This legislation won’t solve the entire problem, but it will provide a small economic benefit in consideration for the time and sacrifice given by volunteers."
The legislation provides a $500 per year income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers, meaning that personal refunds would be larger by that amount. Those who ow no state taxes would receive a $500 payment. The bill has over 22 cosponsors.
"Our firefighters and ambulance workers contribute selflessly to public safety and health. Many communities have a shortage of volunteers, and the idea of this bill is to provide an additional incentive for people to join their local fire departments," Seward said.
Seward was the sponsor of legislation in the 1990s creating the state emergency services revolving loan fund, which has awared 294 loans worth $30 million since 1995 to fire and ambulance companies, municipalities and fire districts for equipment and capital improvements. In 2004, the size of the fund was expanded. The loans are repaid, with payments being recycled into new loans for eligible fire companies and districts.