By State Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Two pieces of legislation designed to protect our communities and address the financial needs of our hard-working emergency responders are on their way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk as part of our Helpers and Heroes initiative.
To help first responder agencies meet increasing financial challenges, House Bill 1673
would increase flexibility by allowing grants awarded under the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program to be banked for up to five years, rather than “use-it-or-lose-it” after 12 months. Funding awarded in future grant cycles could also be used to replace revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation would also expand the existing Volunteer Loan Assistance Program into an Emergency Services Loan Assistance Fund. The move would support volunteer, career and combination agencies that provide fire, ambulance or rescue squad services. Maximum loan amounts would increase by 10% for possible use in purchasing, modernizing, repairing and refurbishing facilities, equipment and reporting software, as well as to refinance debt.
School districts and counties would be allowed to offer a first responder tax credit to volunteers as a way to enhance recruitment and retention of staff, and companies could use fire and EMS grant funds, and firefighter relief association funds, for that same purpose.
We also sent to the governor’s desk a bill to boost access to emergency medical services training. House Bill 1838 increases funding for the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund, directing at least 30% of it to be used for training in underserved rural areas and at least 10% of it going directly to EMS providers for assistance with purchasing medical equipment for their ambulances.