Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Actby Representative Patrick Meehan
Posted on 2014-01-08
MEEHAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Speaker, I want to join the gentleman and my colleagues not just from Pennsylvania but from across the Nation as we challenge this problem that has emerged. Once again, it is symbolic of a number of things--of when we heard the mantra: just pass it, and we will find out what is in it.
We have found out what is in it more and more frequently; and once again, we are beginning to see the implications of a law that was not understood when it was passed and that is now becoming worse as it is being implemented. As my colleagues have stated, it begins here in this particular circumstance with the IRS and the determination that volunteers are going to be considered to be employees of municipalities.
In places like mine, the impact of this is very severe because, if this kind of thing happens in the first place, think of the concept of a volunteer. These are the guys who are getting up at 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the morning on these cold evenings like this and answering the call and going out and putting out the fires in homes in neighborhoods like ours. They are going to be considered to be employees under this law, but that means that the municipalities are going to be fined if they choose not to supply the kinds of medical that will be required under the Affordable Care Act, under ObamaCare. Then, if they do pay for it, what is going to happen in communities like mine is that that cost is going to be passed through.
I sat and I asked the mayor--and I have five separate volunteer fire companies just in my own township--and he estimated that it would cost about $4 million a year to provide that kind of health care coverage to the members of the volunteer fire departments who were there. Now, where do you think that $4 million is going to come from? It is going to come from the homeowners and the taxpayers in our districts, who are going to see their taxes raised to pay for this service for volunteers. This is how insane it is.
The second part of what is so frustrating is the difficulty of dealing with this bureaucracy because, some 3 months ago, like many of my colleagues, I wrote to the IRS and asked for a simple clarification: Why can't we just have a clear signal sent to these departments which rely on this kind of certainty to be able to make decisions as they move forward on the utilization of their resources? These are the guys who are holding bake sales to be able to find the money to put together the equipment and other kinds of needs that they have, and they have got to worry about whether they are going to be encumbered by this kind of a bill.
So, for so many reasons, we need clarification and we need action. Once again, this is symbolic of the particular problems that are faced by this interpretation, which is affecting communities all across the Nation. When I [[Page H67]] say ``all across the Nation,'' that is 750,000 volunteers in fire departments and some 25,000 fire companies that are volunteers all across this Nation. It is touching every community in America.
I join my colleagues in the hope that we will be able to get some action from the IRS and this administration so we don't have to rely on the passage of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act to get the clarification that we need.
I thank my colleague for his leadership on this issue.