HARRISBURG – State Rep. David Rowe (R-Snyder/Union) today announced his support for the Helpers and Heroes bill package to be voted on in the next two weeks in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, amid the crisis of dramatic declines statewide in the number of volunteer firefighters and EMS providers in the Commonwealth.
“As we celebrate Fire Prevention Month in October, we are reminded of the importance of having a fully staffed volunteer firefighter and EMS provider force,” said Rowe. “These bills will work to help our local emergency services with recruitment efforts, upgrading their equipment, and provide our helpers and heroes with necessary mental health support. I am proud to back these efforts to ensure all Pennsylvanians can feel safe knowing that when they call 911, help will be on the way.”
Of Pennsylvania’s 2,462 fire companies, more than 90% are staffed by volunteers. In the 1970s, there were about 300,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania, but today, there are fewer than 38,000. Officials warn that if this trend continues, emergency calls could go unanswered.
House Bill 376
would provide the opportunity for first responders who purchase necessary equipment at their own expense to qualify for a tax credit up to $500.
“Our first responders are the standard-bearers of selflessness in our society,” Rowe said. “They sacrifice so much in the form of time already, they need not also shoulder the financial burden of maintaining equipment. This common-sense legislation is the least we can do for those who give so much.”
Several bills in this package would establish incentives to attract volunteers, such as tuition assistance and college loan forgiveness programs, property tax credits, cash incentives for length of service and online training for firefighters.
Because many fire companies and EMS services are strapped financially, their inability to purchase and maintain modern equipment could impede their ability to properly treat individuals in need. The legislative package advancing in the House would make it easier for municipal/career fire companies and volunteer fire and EMS services to access loans, and would permit volunteer fire and EMS companies to hold onto grant awards for up to five years, enabling them to save for large projects and expensive equipment.
Finally, it would increase surcharges on certain violations to enhance the EMS Operating Fund; authorize volunteer fire departments to recoup costs for material and equipment used in emergency responses and require insurance carriers to directly reimburse 911-dispatched ambulances to ensure they receive payments due.
Many bills that have been introduced thus far stem from recommendations of the SR6 Commission.
Representative David Rowe
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Haas