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Larson Introduces Bill to Support Volunteer Firefighters and EMS Personnel

February 15, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. John B. Larson (CT-01) the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act of 2019 (VRIPA), a bipartisan bill that would exempt from taxation the benefits volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel receive from their communities. Larson introduced the bill with Mike Kelly (PA-16), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), and Peter King (NY-02). Larson authored a similar bill that was signed into law in 2007, but the exemption expired in 2010. Currently, volunteers must pay federal income tax on these modest incentives. VRIPA would allow volunteer first responders to exempt from federal taxation any property tax reductions and up to $600 per year in other benefits.

“These brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect and save others in their communities every single time they respond to a call,” said Larson. “They take these risks and volunteer on behalf of their neighbors, yet are forced to pay federal taxes on the small tokens of gratitude their communities bestow in return. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation would ease the burden placed upon our volunteer first responders who already sacrifice so much.”

"The IAFC thanks Representative Larson for his continued leadership in protecting incentives for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel who serve their communities. The IAFC urges Congress to pass this bipartisan legislation to ensure that fire departments continue to have every ability to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel,” said Chief Dan Eggleston, International Association of Fire Chiefs President and Chairman of the Board.

“I’d like to thank Representative Larson for introducing this important legislation,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “VRIPA makes it easier for local communities to offer small incentives to bolster volunteer fire and EMS staffing. This is a common sense bill and should be a priority for passage by Congress and the administration.”

In recent years, the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has declined by nearly 41,000 while the number of volunteers over the age of 50 has steadily increased. To boost recruitment and retention, many volunteer fire and EMS agencies provide minor financial and non-monetary incentives, including but not limited to uniforms, annual award ceremonies, and reduced property taxes.

The services donated by volunteer first responders are estimated to be worth approximately $46.9 billion annually. Without these services, many communities would be unable to provide firefighting and emergency medical services.