WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced two bipartisan bills today that would enhance communities’ ability to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and EMS workers.
The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA) and the Volunteer Firefighters’ Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) Cap Adjustment Priority Act would protect the modest incentives and retirement benefits many communities use to reward the brave men and women who volunteer to serve in these vital public safety positions.
“Our volunteer firefighters are on the front lines defending our neighborhoods and keeping our citizens safe. These modest changes will make it easier for communities across Maryland and nationwide to recruit and retain the bravest men and women who are ready to defend against whatever might come next,” said Senator Cardin. “Protecting our communities from harm is one of the most basic functions of government.”
“Across our nation, volunteer firefighters play a critical role in helping to ensure the safety of our communities and the well-being of our neighbors. The State of Maine has approximately 11,000 firefighters, and more than 90 percent of those firefighters are volunteers,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan legislation would support towns that offer modest benefits to recruit and retain volunteers who help maintain public safety and protect those who serve our country with such bravery.”
VRIPA would allow communities to provide volunteer firefighters and EMS workers with up to $600 per year of property tax reductions or other incentives, without those benefits being subject to federal income tax and withholding. The measure will allow communities to provide volunteers with minor benefits without having to fear being audited by the IRS.
The LOSAP Cap Act would help communities recruit and retain volunteer firefighters by increasing the annual cap on contributions to their retirement accounts to $6,000 and allowing for adjustments for inflation.