Thursday, September 22, 2022

Bill Supporting Fair Funding for Merging Firehouses Passes Pennsylvania House

A bill supporting fair funding for merging firehouses passed the Pennsylvania House this week.

On Thursday, Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) applauded unanimous House passage of his bill to ensure fire companies that choose to merge will continue to receive fair funding through the state’s Fire and EMS Grant Program.

“This important legislation will assist our volunteer fire companies who work so hard to protect our communities," said Knowles. “Many often forget the sacrifices and bravery it takes to be a first responder, so we must do everything we can as a Legislature to support these men and women.”

Under current law, fire companies that merge each receive their own state grant allocations for a period of up to 10 years.

After that, they are treated as a single entity by the program. That means if three fire companies merge and each were receiving $12,000 from the grant program, the new entity would be entitled to receive up to $36,000 for a period of 10 years. At the end of the 10-year period, the newly formed fire company would receive only $12,000.

“Our volunteer fire companies are being hit hard by rising costs for fuel, equipment and supplies, not to mention a decline in fundraising and shortage of volunteers,” Knowles said. “The last thing we should be doing is taking money away from them.”

House Bill 1178 would remove the 10-year limitation and allow the joint fire company to continue to receive the combined grant amount in perpetuity.

“My legislation would ensure fire companies that choose to merge – as well as the communities they serve – are not penalized with less funding for doing so,” Knowles said.

In addition to the change in the grant program, Knowles’ bill was amended to also aid with implementation of a tuition and loan assistance program for active, eligible volunteers. The program is designed to help recruit and retain volunteers to help protect their communities.

This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.