H.R. 1792/S. 3319

firefighter2.jpgWhile elected officials in Washington have historically supported legislation protecting or benefitting volunteer firefighters and EMS workers, there is currently cost-free legislation, relating to one recruitment and retention incentives program that has been languishing in Congress for five years.

The proposed legislation (HR 1792 and S 3319) would fix technical federal law compliance problems with simple pension type plans called Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAPs).  By providing a modest financial incentive, LOSAPs are used to help recruit and retain volunteers. HR 1792, the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act, is sponsored by Peter King (R-NY) in Congress and currently has 24 cosponsors. The Senate version (S 3319) of the bill is sponsored by Susan Collins (R-ME) and is cosponsored by Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT).  

Estimates of the annual amount volunteers save taxpayers approach $40 billion dollars annually and the recruitment and retention of these volunteers is crucial to communities all across the United States. While some elected officials have already begun to enact legislation and adopt programs intended to help recruit and retain volunteers, led by the President and members of Congress, all elected officials and citizens must take a more proactive approach to help maintain the ranks of these volunteers. Consider that since 1983 the volume of calls responded to by volunteers have more than doubled while enrollment continues to shrink 5-10% each year.

Without the passage of this legislation local governments are reluctant to establish a LOSAP, one of only a handful of recruitment and retention tools available to those seeking to bolster volunteer enrollment. Without this incentive and absent other viable solutions to plummeting enrollment numbers, local governments may be faced with the daunting expense of hiring paid firefighters and emergency services personnel. The cost to taxpayers of establishing these paid departments far exceeds what would be needed to establish a LOSAP program that would assist in retaining and recruiting members.

Communities served by these volunteers shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming they will always be there when needed.  Don’t let these volunteers drift away.  Be proactive. Contact your representatives in the Congress and Senate.  Tell them how much you rely on these volunteers every day and that you support the enactment into law of HR 1792/S 3319.

To find out who to contact in Congress so you can tell them to pass this important legislation try Contacting the Congress!