Assemblyman urges community to consider serving as volunteer firefighters
The need for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel has never been greater, and I believe it has never been a better time to become a volunteer. Not only does volunteering help the community, but the benefits for the volunteer are great indeed – and, I’ve been working hard to expand those benefits to encourage more people to sign up.
This session I worked with local fire companies and the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) to draft three new bills that would extend benefits for volunteer firefighters. My legislation creates a scholarship for those who become volunteer firefighters or emergency medical responders (A.7809). If enacted, this bill would also allow for loan forgiveness to cover student loans of those who volunteer.
My second bill, A.7827, would benefit volunteers as well as their employers by allowing volunteer firefighters to leave work for mandatory fire prevention or emergency medical training while also creating a tax incentive for those who hire volunteers. This would offset any lost wages employers may experience by allowing their employees to leave work for their firefighting or EMS responsibilities.
My third bill, A.8307, would establish the Commission on Volunteer Fire Departments within the state’s Division of Homeland Security to help increase funding for the capital needs of volunteer fire departments and EMS organizations across the state. The commission would be tasked with studying the financial needs of these volunteers within different areas of the state and make recommendations as to how to modernize equipment without overburdening taxpayers.
These measures are just some of those I hope are available to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel soon. Please know I will continue fighting for the enactment of these bills and to support efforts to increase recruitment. In fact, recently I participated in an event to showcase students who have signed up to become volunteer firefighters and the self-confidence and leadership skills they are gaining.
Not only does volunteering give you a greater sense of self-worth but there are tangible benefits as well, including training and education programs; scholarships and tuition reimbursement; reductions on your property taxes; free museum admission; service recognition; tax and pension credit; and health and insurance benefits and screenings.
Our volunteer firefighters contribute so much to our communities – and they save taxpayers $3.8 billion annually. I believe we should do everything we can to help recruit more people to volunteer in order to continue those savings for everyone and to ensure the safety and well-being of our homes, property and, most importantly, loved ones. Thank you so much to everyone who already serves and to sign up, please go to www.fireinyou.org or contact your local fire company.
State Assemblyman Mike Norris
(Norris represents the 144th Assembly District comprised of portions of Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties.)