WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, co-sponsored legislation that would clarify the employer requirements for volunteer fire departments and emergency responders. The measure would amend the definition of “full-time employee” in the Affordable Care Act for purposes of the law’s employer requirements, thereby eliminating volunteer fire and emergency response departments’ need to provide health insurance to its volunteers or pay a penalty fee.
“Delaware, like a number of smaller states and rural communities, relies heavily on hard-working volunteer firefighters to protect our communities and respond to emergencies,” said Chairman Carper. “These volunteer departments operate on very limited budgets and traditionally don’t offer benefits to volunteers. This measure makes it clear that volunteer firefighters and emergency responders should not be counted toward the employer mandate in the health care law, ensuring that these volunteer departments aren’t on the hook for additional costs and can use their limited financial resources on the tools and equipment they need to help keep our communities safe.”
The Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Manchin III (D-WV), would protect and benefit the approximately 750,000 volunteer firefighters throughout the United States, including those at 60 fire departments in Delaware. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty.
Endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Congressional Fire Services Institute, the legislation uses the existing standards in the Internal Revenue Service Code for “bona fide volunteers performing fire-fighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, or ambulance services.”