Provisions from Collins’ bipartisan bill to support volunteer first responders signed into law

Several provisions from bipartisan legislation co-authored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to bolster the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel recently became law as part of a larger legislative package.

Language from the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act of 2019, S. 1210, which Sen. Collins introduced in April 2019 with lead cosponsor U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), was included in the federal government’s fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill, H.R. 133, which the president signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.

“These bipartisan provisions Senator Cardin and I authored will protect cost-effective incentives that support the brave men and women who volunteer to protect their communities,” Sen. Collins said on Jan. 12.

Specifically, the provisions will allow communities to provide volunteer firefighters and EMS workers with up to $600 per year of property tax reductions or other incentives that will not be subject to federal income tax and withholding, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Collins’ office. Such tax breaks will help ease the administrative burdens faced by local departments when they reward volunteers with minor benefits.

“Across our nation, volunteer firefighters play a critical role in helping to ensure the safety of our communities, especially as firefighters continue to work with those on the frontlines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Maine is largely a rural state, and more than 90 percent of firefighters are volunteers,” said Sen. Collins, who serves as co-chair of the congressional Fire Services Caucus. “Without these public-spirited citizens, many smaller communities would be unable to provide firefighting and other emergency services at all.”