SPRINGFIELD – Fire officials and legislators banded together 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, according to State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley).
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.
Cosponsored by Syverson, 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 firefighters, paramedics and EMS workers put their lives on the line each and every day for the safety of their fellow Illinoisans. Providing a state income tax credit for these emergency workers is one way to thank them,” Syverson said. “Seventy percent of Illinois is covered by volunteer fire departments. With the number of volunteer emergency workers declining, this income tax credit could also be an incentive for other residents who have considered lending their time and talents to this very noble cause.”
“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.