Ortt, Norris introduce legislation allowing mileage reimbursement for volunteer firefighters, EMTs

Posted 22 February 2023 at 8:32 am

Press Release, State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, Assemblyman Mike Norris

New York State Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt and Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C-Lockport) are announcing new legislation they have introduced that would assist volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers for costs relating to using their personal vehicles when they are responding to emergencies, reimbursing them at the mileage rate for gas and vehicle wear and tear through a state tax credit (A.4094).

The lawmakers are hoping this measure will help recruitment efforts and encourage more New Yorkers to volunteer for this critical public service.

“In communities across our state, our volunteer fire and medical personnel are our first response to dangerous and time-sensitive emergencies where paid personnel may not be available,” Ortt said. “However, as time goes on, we continue to see these volunteer organizations struggle to retain and bolster their ranks with new recruits, which places an even larger strain on their shrinking numbers. By removing barriers for recruitment and relieving some of the financial burdens on our existing volunteers, we will be helping to ensure that our communities, especially here in western New York, will continue to have reliable and necessary volunteer first response companies.”

Over the past decade, the number of volunteers in fire companies and ambulance services has significantly decreased. In fact, over 20,000 volunteers have aged-out or left service for other reasons in the past 20 years. During that same time, the number of calls have nearly doubled, with many companies within our districts responding to hundreds of calls per year.

Ortt and Norris acknowledge that because volunteers often use their personal vehicles in response to emergency calls, it is appropriate to aid with their gasoline and vehicle wear and tear expenses in the performance of their duties. Specially, their bill would provide a state income tax credit equal to the federal mileage rate.

Volunteer fire and ambulatory services save New York state taxpayers more than $3.3 billion annually.

Ortt and Norris also encourage the public to consider getting involved with their local volunteer fire company. There are many ways to help. You can become a volunteer firefighter, EMT or participate in the fire company as an exempt or auxiliary member. To learn more, please go to www.fireinyou.org.

“The lifesaving services provided by these volunteers is absolutely essential to everyone’s quality of life across our state,” Norris said. “No one knows when they will get into an accident, have a serious or life-threatening health emergency, fall and need assistance, or have a fire-related incident. Having these courageous and selfless men and women on standby night and day is an assurance we all, quite frankly, take for granted. That’s why our state should do everything we can to assist them for this dedicated service. This bill is an important part of that, and I believe it should become law as soon as possible to help address the shortage in recruitment.”