Barrar plan extends fire/EMS grants

A bill introduced by state Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-160, Delaware and Chester Counties, received unanimous support from members of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

House Bill 1877 and its corresponding amendment together seek to reauthorize and extend the existing grant program for fire companies and emergency medical services companies in the Commonwealth.

The $30 million grant program is set to expire on June 30, unless action is taken to extend it. House Bill 1877 would extend the program until June 30, 2020.

“This vital program has been highly successful since its inception and is a crucial source of funding for our first responders,” Barrar said in a press release. “My amendment to the bill would improve how this program is administered and would promote public safety for all Pennsylvanians.”

The proposed amendment to the bill incorporates numerous changes into the grant program to improve its performance and efficiency. The amendment incentivizes certification by providing for a monetary bonus for up to 20 members certified at the Firefighter 1 level or higher. The amendment encourages consolidation by allowing merged fire and EMS companies to continue receiving the aggregate of their grant monies for 10 years following consolidation. This is an increase from five years in existing law.

Barrar’s amendment also adds and defines career emergency medical services companies to the grant program and authorizes them to be eligible if they are designated as a municipality’s primary EMS provider. An additional requirement for all grant recipients is active reporting in the Pennsylvania Fire Information Reporting System.

Approximately 2,500 grants are awarded annually to fire companies and EMS companies throughout the commonwealth from a program that’s funded by gaming proceeds. The proposed amendment also strives to assist in the management of the program by authorizing the state fire commissioner to use up to $800,000 of the fund’s unencumbered monies for administrative costs.

Also during the meeting, House Resolution 264, which was drafted by Rep. Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery, passed with unanimous support. The resolution would urge Congress to address the health, social, and economic needs of female veterans to appropriately honor their service.

Having been passed by the committee, both pieces of legislation now await votes in the House.

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