• Date : April 3rd, 2022
  • Author : Joe DeStefano

When the alarm sounds, volunteer firefighters and emergency responders spring into action to come to the aid of their communities. They don’t ask to be paid. They are our friends and neighbors and we should take every opportunity to thank them and show our appreciation for their service, said Assembly Joe DeStefano in sponsoring legislation to assist these dedicated volunteers.

Under DeStefano’s bill, A9689, firefighters and EMS workers will receive one year of credit in a public retirement plan for every five years served as a volunteer. This will not only provide an incentive for the volunteers to serve, but also help fire and ambulance companies with recruitment and retention. “We are fortunate that many public employees are emergency volunteers and this is an excellent way to compensate them,” the Assemblyman said.

“I’m proud to announce that my assembly bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator John Brooks of Seaford, and many other legislators, realizing the value of the volunteer community, have signed on,” he continued. “We will lobby our fellow lawmakers to vote these bills out of committee and encourage the governor to immediately sign the measure into law.”

In debating the bills, a key consideration is what the cost would be if local fire departments and ambulance companies had to pay for the services provided by the volunteers. In such a highly-taxed state, adding this burden would make it nearly impossible to live here, DeStefano pointed out.

According to the Assemblyman, departments across Long Island are desperate for volunteers. Recruitment is difficult enough and those considered for service must pass rigorous training and other requirements. To be a member of a fire company or ambulance, on-going training and participation levels are a must and volunteers sacrifice a great deal of their time and effort. This measure, with the pension costs covered by the state, will be a blessing for localities trying to maintain adequate volunteer staffing levels and will dramatically help with recruitment, he noted.

“When the emergency alarm goes off, community volunteers drop what they’re doing no matter the time of day and answer the call,” DeStefano said. “If your house catches on fire or you get in an accident, they are there with bravery, expert training and the skills to help you. They are trained for any emergency, no matter how hazardous, and they put their lives on the line. The least we can do is pay them back in this small way.”