Senate Effort to Give
Firefighters What They Need
12, 2013- Hanson Quickel
HARRISBURG— Senate Lisa Baker (R-20) successfully led the Senate’s effort to help
volunteer fire companies buy desperately needed equipment through
state-sponsored low-interest loans.
to increase the loan limits on the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP)
passed the Senate 49-0 and now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.
companies throughout the state are losing volunteers at an alarming rate,”
Baker said. “This decline is often
linked to the amount of time our first responders must spend at chicken
barbecues, bingo games and other fundraisers.
The VLAP program eases the fundraising burden on our volunteers, helps
to attract and retain firefighters, and ultimately aids in protecting and
saving the victims of fire, motor vehicle accidents, and other life-and-death
Bill 1706 doubles the amount of money fire companies are permitted to borrow
for equipment and apparatus under the loan program. Loan limits have not changed in more than 40
years, although the price of equipment has increased fivefold in many cases.
world of public safety, a shortage of money, volunteers, training and equipment
can have deadly consequences,” Baker told her Senate colleagues. “By passing this bill, we can tackle the
shortage of all of these essential elements and ultimately keep firefighters
trained, equipped and on call, ready to save property and lives.”
stressed that no additional tax dollars are needed for the bill, which comes
from a self-sustaining revolving loan fund. The default rate on the fund stands
at zero. She also noted that if
volunteer firefighters did not provide their services, taxpayers would be left
top pick up the tab, in the amount of $6 billion.
Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which Sen. Baker
chairs, joined the Senate Majority Policy Committee in hosting a hearing on The
Challenges of Firefighting Today, which focused on recruitment, retention and
training challenges at an Oct. 25 hearing in Gettysburg. The loan legislation was identified as a
chief priority by firefighters across the state.