Bill aiding volunteer firefighters passed by state assembly and senate

Originally published in Nassau Herald on May 28, 2020.

The state assembly and senate passed legislation introduced by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky that protects the benefits of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

The bill passed on May 27 that is co-sponsored by Kaminsky, who represents many South Shore volunteer fire departments and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), will protect the Length of Service Award Program. The program provides pension benefits to volunteer firefighters who reach certain milestones. The measure now heads to Gov. Cuomo, where it will likely be signed into law.

“Our brave volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders have been on the front lines during this pandemic, risking their lives for our communities,” Kaminsky said. “Due to a quirk in the law, the pensions of volunteer firefighters and EMTs were jeopardized — despite the fact that these courageous community members have been working harder than ever before during this pandemic.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions has affected volunteer firefighters and their efforts to attain the required 50 points per year through responding to calls, taking part in training and being on call to be eligible for New York state’s length of service award program that serves as a pension fund for the firefighters.

Fire officials said that because of the restrictions many fire department members are not meeting the requirements, adding that the quarantining and near shutdown of the New York metropolitan area has rendered the options to gain LOSAP points impractical. 

Meyer Adler, 2nd deputy chief of the Lawrence Cedarhurst Fire Department said this bill is an example of first responders being assisted by local leaders. “The passing of this important bill will help us retain our quality members that we have had to bar from participating in our responses, due to being their well being," Adler said. "They can soon pick up where they left  and accrue aother full year of service."

Woodmere Fire Commissioner Ronna Rubenstein noted the importance of volunteer firefighters maintaining their benefits. “Thank you to Senator Kaminsky for his leadership and advocacy on behalf of our volunteer firefighters,” Rubenstein said. “Now that this bill has passed the Legislature, these brave men and women will be able to retain their benefits while forced to stay home because of the pandemic.”

Kaminsky added that he plans on continuing to support first responders during the pandemic. “By protecting their benefits during this pandemic, not only will we be showing appropriate gratitude to our heroes, but will also help bolster the recruitment and retention of local first responders,” he said. “I will continue to support our local firefighters and EMTs throughout this pandemic and beyond, and look forward to my bill being signed into law.”