(Washington) – Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT) and Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA) today announced the introduction of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (VRIPRA) in order to reauthorize a tax break for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. The tax break, authorized in 2007 following its original introduction by Larson, expired in 2010. By renewing this tax exemption, VRIPRA would increase the value of benefits offered by communities that bolster recruitment and retention of volunteer first responders.

“When it comes to protecting our communities, many towns in Connecticut and around the nation rely on brave individuals who donate time to helping their neighbors,” said Congressman Larson. “It is crucial that we offer these men and women our gratitude and give back what we can for their sacrifice. This act helps us show our appreciation by strengthening the value of volunteer benefits, in turn helping communities find and train needed volunteers.”

“The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act is a commonsense approach to recruiting, retaining and thanking our brave volunteer firefighters and emergency responders, who are vital in keeping our families and communities safe,” Congressman Latham said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this measure.”

“There is no greater challenge facing the volunteer emergency services today than recruitment and retention. The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act will give local agencies and governments much-needed flexibility to implement incentive programs that work for their community. On behalf of the nation’s volunteer firefighters and EMS providers I’d like to thank Representatives Larson and Latham for introducing this critically important bill,” said Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council.

“With the ranks of volunteer fire and EMS personnel declining but still critically needed, the federal government should provide a small incentive to these volunteers who risk their lives for little or no compensation. The cost of these proposed incentives to the federal government would be minimal compared to the estimated cost savings provided by volunteer emergency services,” said Larry Merrill, President of the National Association of Towns and Townships and Executive Director of the Michigan Townships Association.

The work of volunteer first responders is estimated to be worth over $140 billion to communities across the country who otherwise could not afford these vital services. Despite the importance of these services, the number of volunteer firefighters nationally has dropped by nearly 44,000 in the last five years while training and certification requirements have steadily increased the time commitment for those who wish to offer their help.

The Congressional Fire Services Institute, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of Towns and Townships and National Volunteer Fire Council have each expressed their support for the legislation, most recently in a letter to Representatives Larson and Latham, attached.