|Posted:||April 30, 2019 12:16 PM|
|From:||Representative P. Michael Sturla|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Loan Program for Career and Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Agencies|
|Pennsylvania has a rich firefighting tradition, with hundreds of thousands of men and women volunteering to protect their communities over the years. However, as our society has evolved, firefighting needs have changed, with fewer people having time to volunteer and with concentrated city populations often requiring professional firefighters to take on complex urban firefighting challenges.
Many of those professional firefighting departments are located in third-class cities and other municipalities that are struggling to sustain budgets that are strained by smaller tax bases and higher demand for services. Last session’s Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which studied the delivery of fire and emergency management services across Pennsylvania, recommended that career fire departments be granted access to a successful, decades-old loan program that has helped many volunteer fire and ambulance companies purchase and maintain their facilities and equipment.
I am introducing an initiative that would enact this recommendation of the SR 6 Commission, which included representatives of career and volunteer fire agencies as well as municipalities of all sizes, to transform the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program, known as VLAP, into an Emergency Responder Loan Assistance Program. This expanded loan program would allow volunteer, career, and combination agencies that provide fire, ambulance, or rescue squad services to access low-interest loans. These loans will help these agencies to purchase, modernize, repair, and refurbish facilities, equipment, and reporting software, as well as to refinance debt. To be perfectly clear, this program would solely address the expansion of the loan program, not the grant program which I am also addressing in another bill.
I hope you will join me in supporting this ballot referendum that is needed to authorize the change to expand the successful volunteer loan program to our struggling career and combination departments. The men and women who show up when we call for help have asked for our assistance, and this is a vital lifeline that we can offer to our struggling emergency responders.
Introduced as HB1448