Bill including Sainato measure to extend fire/EMS grant programs heads to governor

Would reauthorize programs, fund volunteer recruitment efforts

HARRISBURG, Oct. 21 – Legislation incorporating state Rep. Chris Sainato’s bill to reauthorize the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Programs for four more years and expand the programs to fund volunteer recruitment efforts passed the House unanimously on a concurrence vote today and now heads to the governor.

Sainato, who is Democratic chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said his bill was a critical addition to H.B.1673 because the state’s fire and EMS workers rely on the grant programs – which lapsed in June – to continue their lifesaving work.

“Grant funding for our first responders is essential even when there is no pandemic going on because our first responders – including many who are volunteers – depend on this funding to stay safe and protect the rest of us,” Sainato said. “That funding is even more critical now, as COVID-19 has forced a halt to fundraising events and created a need for additional protective devices, sanitizing equipment, training and other resources.

“Equally critical is the need to boost our declining ranks of volunteers. I’m encouraged that House Bill 1673 also adopts my proposal to expand the grant program’s use to recruiting and retention efforts.”

Sainato said that in addition to his bill, H.B. 1673 incorporates colleagues’ bills that would, among other things, create a referendum to allow municipal fire departments to access loan assistance, raise loan limits, restructure the Office of State Fire Commissioner, authorize length-of-service award programs and allow counties and school districts to offer a real property tax credit to an active volunteer of a fire or EMS company.

In October 2019, the House unanimously passed H.B. 1673 and Sainato’s H.B. 1834 to extend and expand the grant programs. The state Senate then amended H.B. 1673 to include elements of Sainato’s bill and unanimously passed the amended version of H.B. 1673 yesterday. The House unanimously concurred in the amendments today, and the bill heads for the governor’s desk.