Sanders' bill supports volunteer firefighters

Kristy Oxholm, president of the Vermont State Firefighters' Association, said the legislation "would go a long way toward allowing communities to recognize and reward the services of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that serve their fellow citizens every day in this country."

Dean Gilmore, captain of the New Haven Volunteer Fire Department, said, "First, we applaud the dedication and continued commitment of Senator Sanders to work for the volunteer fire and EMS services in Vermont and throughout the country. This bill, if passed, would provide a tool for the local communities to offer incentives in retaining the volunteer fire and rescue personnel they have as well as recruiting new volunteers to help maintain the level of service the people need and expect."

Jim Finger, president of the American Ambulance Association, said, "Due to the large size of the service areas for EMS agencies, many of them do not have access to large labor pools and could not afford to provide high-quality care if it weren't for volunteers. This legislation would help correct this problem by allowing EMS agencies to provide volunteer medics with essential benefits such as health and life insurance, tuition forgiveness and retirement benefits to recruit and retain volunteers."

The Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Support Act of 2009 would let the Department of Homeland Security pay half of the cost of community recruitment and retention programs. The funding could go to state or local governments, or qualified non-profit organizations.

Sanders' bill includes oversight and accountability measures applying to local governments or non-profit entities that would receive assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, which would administer the program. The bill is strongly supported by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the American Ambulance Association.

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