WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, announced that several provisions of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA) they authored were included in the government funding bill that passed Congress and has been signed into law.
“Local communities depend on the public service of volunteer firefighters to stay safe and secure. 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 and I was proud to work with Senator Collins to make this bipartisan provision a reality.”
“Across our nation, volunteer firefighters play a critical role in helping to ensure the safety of our communities, especially as firefighters continue to work with those on the frontlines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Maine is largely a rural state, and more than 90 percent of firefighters are volunteers. Without these public-spirited citizens, many smaller communities would be unable to provide firefighting and other emergency services at all,” said Senator Collins. “These bipartisan provisions Senator Cardin and I authored will protect cost-effective incentives that support the brave men and women who volunteer to protect their communities.”
In order to bolster recruitment and retention, many fire and EMS agencies now provide benefits, including non-monetary gifts, reductions in property taxes, per-call payments, stipends, or retirement benefits. The provisions authored by Senators Collins and Cardin will 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. This will help ease the administrative burden that local departments sometimes face when they reward their volunteers with minor benefits.