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Rodney F.

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  • H.R. 3685—Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act

    by Representative Rodney P. Frelinghuysen

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    FRELINGHUYSEN of new jersey in the house of representatives Wednesday, January 8, 2014 Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, and to thank Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania for his sponsorship of this legislation.

    Volunteer firefighters, first aid squads, and emergency medical technicians are vital in ensuring safety in my home state of New Jersey and across the nation. Many communities rely exclusively upon such dedicated volunteers for protection and emergency medical services.

    The National Volunteer Fire Council reports that there are 783,000 volunteer firefighters in the U.S. comprising 70 percent of the firefighting force, and our nation has over 20,000 volunteer departments.

    However, thousands of volunteer groups across the nation could be forced to shut down because the towns cannot afford the high costs of the President's new healthcare law.

    Due to the Affordable Care Act's requirements, fire departments, emergency squads and municipalities may have to provide health insurance for volunteers working more than 30 hours a week. The current law stipulates that the `employer mandate' will apply to organizations that have at least 50 employees, which can include multiple fire departments and EMS houses within one community.

    The vast majority of volunteers I speak with do not expect to receive health insurance from their departments or organizations. Volunteer firefighters and EMS responders do not see their work as a career or a part-time job--it's a call to serve the community passed down from one generation of a family to the next.

    I know that volunteer fire and EMS departments operate on a shoestring budget, and won't have the resources to pay for health insurance for their personnel. Without this new bureaucratic burden, most departments already have difficulty making ends meet.

    I am deeply concerned that subjecting fire departments and municipalities to this provision will result in vital volunteer services being reduced or eliminated in our communities.

    This is why I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 3685, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, and again thank Congressman Lou Barletta for his leadership in addressing this critical public safety issue.


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