A bipartisan group of legislators joined the Illinois Firefighters Association officials at the Capitol March 23 to call for the passage of legislation to help alleviate the critical shortage of volunteer fire and EMS workers in Illinois.
Modeled after legislation passed in New York, Senate Bill 3027 would provide a $500 state income tax credit for volunteer emergency workers who earn less than $10,000 in stipends for their service to the fire department.
Senate Bill 3027 passed the Senate by a unanimous vote on Feb. 23, but a vote has been put off in the House of Representatives.
“Volunteer fire departments are the lifeline to rural communities,” said Sen. Dale Fowler. “Without volunteer firefighters, people’s lives are at risk and so it is important we find a way in the General Assembly to help this growing issue, with the hope this extra incentive could save someone’s life.”
“There is a public safety crisis going on throughout the state, with the number of emergency calls to fire departments tripling (the majority of which are for EMS) and the number of volunteer emergency workers plummeting. This reflects a nationwide shortage of volunteers, contributing factors which include: the aging population of volunteers, increased training requirements, and newer policies, which prohibit full-time firefighters from volunteering in their own communities,” explained Highland Fire Chief Kerry Federer.
“The message we want to get out today is two-fold: first there is a dire need for this legislation to pass; and secondly, we want to encourage people to consider becoming a volunteer fire or EMS worker and make a major difference in the lives of their community. Not all departments are totally volunteer, and some compensate per call while others provide stipends or reimbursement for expenses,” explained Illinois Firefighters Association Legislative Chair Kevin Schott.
Founded in 1889, The Illinois Firefighters Association (IFA) is dedicated to the advancement of the Fire Service by providing leadership through education, training, benefits, and information networking at the local, state, and national levels.