ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)– An updated study commissioned by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York found New York tax payers save $4.7 billion a year by having volunteer firefighters.
Over the years, there has been a decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters in the State of New York.
“Since 2000, when there were about 180,000 volunteer firefighters in the state, we’re sitting at around 80,000 today,” said John D’Alessandro, FASNY Secretary.
To help volunteers, the governor has included some proposals in her budget.
“The first is a $10 million stipend fund,” said Jackie Bray, Commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. “So that we can make sure that volunteer firefighters aren’t out of pocket for all the training that we ask them to take to become a firefighter to keep us safe.”
This is something that FASNY supports.
“As volunteers, we aren’t in the station when a call comes in. Generally we are at home, have to go to the station and then go to the scene. We are spending our own gas money, often times in many departments, the sad reality is we have to buy our own equipment. So anything like that— a training stipend fund, reimbursement for expenses, reasonable expenses, in the pursuit of being a volunteer firefighter or EMS provider those type of things are real incentives.”
A training stipend isn’t the only thing the governor is proposing.
“The second is a change in a law to allow municipalities, localities to nominally pay a fee or a stipend for emergency response. Only up to 20% of what a career firefighter in the area makes,” said Bray.
Ideally, FASNY would like to see the current $200 income tax credit for volunteer firefighters increase in the final state budget.
“We would like to and we are advocating to raise that to $1,000 to the volunteer firefighters,” explained Edward Tase, Jr. FASNY President. “That helps all volunteer firefighters in New York State not just our property owners, but the ones that live at home with mom and dad, or they have their apartments that don’t pay property tax, they still can get a benefit for what they’re doing.
The Senate one house budget has proposed to increase this income tax credit to $800.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is encouraged to reach out to their local department.