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Members Introduce “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act”

December 12, 2013
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Glenn 'GT' Thompson (PA-5) today joined fellow Members of Congress in holding a press conference to discuss the introduction of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3685), which will ensure that emergency services volunteers are not counted as full-time employees under the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

“Under the President’s health care law, volunteer firefighting organizations could potentially be defined as employers, meaning they would be forced to provide health insurance to their volunteers or be subject to penalties. If not corrected or clarified this provision has the potential to close volunteer fire houses across the commonwealth,” stated Rep. Thompson, a 30-year volunteer firefighter, EMT, and state-certified Rescue Technician. “This bill is about providing certainty to our local volunteer organizations and standing up for those who put their lives on the line protecting our communities.”

Under the ACA’s employer mandate, volunteer organizations with 50 or more employees could be forced to provide health insurance or pay penalties. H.R. 3685 would ensure that volunteer firefighters and EMTs are not counted as employees under the law.

In September, Representative Lou Barletta (PA-11), the bill’s sponsor, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel seeking clarification for volunteer fire companies. The IRS has not responded to the letter.

Over 97% of Pennsylvania’s fire departments – and 90% nationwide - are served by community volunteers. Fire companies could exceed the 50 employee threshold in several different ways: by themselves based on their size, by being part of a larger combined force under several different chiefs, or by being part of a municipality that has 50 or more public employees in total. 

H.R. 3685 is supported by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

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