(Southington, CT) – Today at Southington Fire Department, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) highlighted the need for legislation he cosponsored that would help local fire departments attract much needed volunteer firefighters by offering them some of the same tax exemptions and other benefits that are provided to paid firefighters. He was joined by Southington Fire Chief Harold Clark, and other fire chiefs and firefighters from across the state.
“Volunteer firefighters who donate their time should be exempt from taxes on the modest employee benefits they receive,” Blumenthal said. “Volunteer firefighters are in short supply and should not be short changed on benefits. Recruiting requires better incentives and providing better benefits is cost effective and fair.”
In August, Clark wrote a letter to Blumenthal asking him to co-sponsor the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 933) and the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act (S. 1911).The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act would expand and reauthorize the provision in current law that allows volunteer firefighters to receive tax free benefits. The same provision was enacted in 2007 but expired in 2010 when Congress failed to extend it.
The Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act would clarify the treatment of length of service award programs (LOSAPs) under the federal tax code. Specifically, this bill would make LOSAP contributions guaranteed and portable, give communities the flexibility to make higher annual contributions to an individual volunteer’s LOSAP, and allow private, nonprofit emergency response agencies to elect to have their plans be considered “governmental” for taxation purposes.
“It was deeply appreciated and an honor to have Senator Blumenthal address these important issues with our volunteer firefighters, along with local and state fire service leaders,” Clark said. “The issue of recruitment and retention is not isolated to Southington, Connecticut or New England it is a nationwide problem. These two bills, if passed, will better equip fire service leaders in their endeavors of recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters.”