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Lawmakers partner to protect volunteer fire fighters, EMS

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Several United States senators including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are partnering to introduce a piece of bipartisan legislation that ensures volunteer firefighters and other first responders can continue protecting their communities.

Manchin, joined by Sen. Mark R Warner, D-Va., Sen. Pat Toomy, R-Pa., Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, to introduce the Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act amending the Affordable Care Act to make it clear that volunteer emergency service workers are not required to be counted as full-time equivalent employees for purposes of healthcare coverage.

Some volunteer firefighters are nominally paid and most first responders have other full-time employment. Many emergency response agencies don't have the resources to provide pay or benefits to volunteers and most receive compensation or health coverage as a result of their volunteer public service.

"We all know that the main goal of the Affordable Care Act is to provide all Americans with accessible and affordable health care coverage," Manchin said. "However, we also know that there have been many missteps and unintentional consequences during the implementation of this law. Due to a technical error that unintentionally penalizes volunteer fire departments; the law jeopardizes funding for training and emergency response hours by imposing unreasonable burdens on many of our volunteer emergency response agencies.

"Our bipartisan fix makes sure there is a clear distinction between full-time, paid emergency responders and volunteers so that our emergency response teams can keep our communities safe without the threat of reducing necessary funding for training or emergency response hours. I thank my good friend Sen. Mark Warner for his leadership on fixing this problem with the Affordable Care Act."

This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Congressional Fire Services Institute.

"The IAFC strongly supports Sen. Warner and Sen. Manchin's bill to clarify the status of volunteer firefighters under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This is a bipartisan issue which could have serious impacts on staffing at fire departments across the United States," said Chief William Metcalf, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. "The IAFC looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to help ensure fire departments of all types are able to continue saving lives and serving their communities."