HARRISBURG, January 27, 2020 − The State Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness today unanimously approved legislation (Senate Bill 932) sponsored by Senator Lisa Boscola that would expand access to funding for more volunteer fire departments.
“For decades now, volunteer fire departments have seen shrinking numbers,” said Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh). “Volunteers must split precious time between training and fundraising. If money is sitting in state funding accounts that cannot be accessed, then it’s imperative to change the law so these funds can be wholly utilized.”
She said current state law contains technicalities that block access to state support for so-called “hybrid fire companies.” Hybrid departments are a combination company that includes both volunteer and paid firefighters. Currently only “volunteer fire companies” can receive state funding.
A 2018 legislative study revealed that the number of volunteer firefighters had dropped form 300,000 in the 1970s to 38,000. More than 90 percent of the state’s nearly 2,500 fire companies are volunteer departments.
Last year, 2,518 municipalities received $59.99 million for distribution to volunteer firefighters’ relief associations (VFRAs). The funding comes from a 2 percent state tax on fire insurance premiums purchased by Pennsylvania residents from out-of-state insurance companies.
The Boscola bill now goes before the full Senate for consideration.
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