Holds Hearing on Fire & EMS Accomplishments, Implementation & Next Steps
HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee advanced five measures and held a public hearing on Fire & EMS issues, according to Senator Pat Stefano, Committee Chairman.
The Committee reported the following measures to the full Senate:
Senate Bill 150, sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30, would increase from $150 a month to $180 a month the amount that disabled veterans receive through the Blind Veterans Pension and the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Programs.
“It has been twenty-two years since this program has seen an increase,” said Sen. Stefano. “I believe that this increase is both merited for the 2,141 veterans served by these important programs.”
Senate Bill 461, sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) would require that the position of PEMA Director be confirmed by the Senate.
“It is vitally important that we have qualified leaders in each of our state agencies, and PEMA, which is charged with operating during emergency declarations should be no exception,” said Sen. Stefano.
Senate Bill 550, sponsored by Senator Devlin Robinson (R-37) would amend the 2nd Class County Code to put in place protocols for placement of flags on the graves of veterans.
“The General Assembly recently updated the law for placement of flags on the graves of our veterans in 3rd through 8th Class Counties,” said Sen. Stefano. “And this legislation would help ensure the proper upkeep of the graves of Pennsylvania veterans in Allegheny County.”
Senate Bill 556, introduced by Senator Stefano and Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35) would ensure that law enforcement officers, fire fighters, ambulance or rescue squad members, and members of the National Guard remain eligible for the Emergency & Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefits Act should they pass away from COVID-19.
“While many of us have had to pause our lives during this pandemic,” said Sen. Stefano. “Our first responders did not have a choice as they continued to do their job day in and day out. As such, it’s important for us to have their back by clarifying that they are eligible for this important benefit should they pass away from COVID-19.”
*Senate Resolution 96, sponsored by Senator Stefano and Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), would require the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to review the state’s 9-1-1 System in preparation for the law’s reauthorization in 2024.
“A lot of progress has been made by PEMA and our county 9-1-1 call centers as they are answering calls from various devices, including text messages,” said Sen. Stefano. “As we move forward with ‘Next Generation 9-1-1,’ we need to ensure that this is money well spent and encourage as much collaboration as possible.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee also held a Public Hearing on “Fire & EMS Accomplishments, Implementation & Next Steps.”
Chairman Stefano laid out in his opening remarks that the General Assembly has passed a number of measures to aid our Fire & EMS community since the seminal 2018 SR 6 Report:
*Act 20 of 2019 provided $250,000 for the hiring of three Recruitment & Retention Positions
*Act 69 of 2019 established a Mental Wellness & Stress Management Program.
*Act 106 of 2019 provided for Online Fire Training.
*Act 17 of 2020 allowed the Department of Health to provide waivers for staffing requirements.
*Act 26 of 2020 provided $50 million in COVID Fire & EMS Grants.
*Act 91 of 2020 was an omnibus measure, enhancing the position of Fire Commissioner by making him or her subject to Senate confirmation – establishing a Fire Advisory Board to review and make recommendations on important topics – moving the Fire Relief program to the Fire Commissioner’s Office and expanding the use of funding to Recruitment and Retention – reauthorizing and expanding the use of the popular Fire & EMS Grant Program – increasing loan limits under the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program and putting forth a ballot question to extend to municipal fire companies – and authorizing counties and school districts to establish Property Tax Credits for first responders.
*Act 93 of 2020 increased fines under the Emergency Services Operating Fund (EMSOF) in order to generate $13 million in revenue for EMS.
*Act 105 of 2020 put into place the Move Over Law.
*Act 108 of 2020 covered Fire Police under the State Workers Insurance Fund.
The Committee heard testimony from State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego, Bureau of EMS Director, Dylan Ferguson, as well as representatives of the Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association, Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council, Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute, and Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association.
“While the General Assembly has responded to the SR 6 Report, a number of these measures have yet to be implemented,” said Sen. Stefano. “The Fire Commissioner’s Advisory Board, the Mental Wellness & Stress Management Program, and EMSOF enhancements remain unfulfilled. Meanwhile, the Administration has not really weighed until today on the May 18th Ballot Question regarding low interest fire loans. I am committed to seeing these needed changes done so that we can move take more steps forward during the 2021-22 Legislative Session.”
For a link to the video from the meeting and hearing, click HERE.
CONTACT: Nathan Silcox, 717-787-7175, firstname.lastname@example.org