Monday, June 22, 2015


State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo

June 22, 2015

                           For Immediate Release


Queens, NY (June 22, 2015): In recognition of the extraordinary public
service provided by members of volunteer fire departments and ambulance
companies, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. recently joined with his
Senate colleagues in passing legislation to help these volunteers save
money on taxes, receive greater and improved timely benefits, and gain
access to new educational opportunities.

Having five volunteer fire departments in his district, Addabbo noted,
“Night and day, 365 days a year, our volunteer fire departments and
ambulance companies stand ready, willing and able to respond to emergencies
and save the lives of others, often while putting their own health and
safety at risk.”  He added,   “Volunteerism is a vital and welcome calling
in our communities, and it is fitting that we take steps to assist and
recognize the efforts of our volunteer fire departments and ambulance
companies as they give selflessly of themselves to all of us.”

The package of legislation recently approved by the State Senate to aid
volunteer fire departments and ambulance companies is as follows:

S.1000, which is co-sponsored by Addabbo, would provide for an automatic
annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to disability benefits received by
volunteer firefighters.  In 1998, the State Legislature raised the benefit
level for firefighters with permanent total disabilities to a maximum of
$400 a week regardless of their date of injury, and this bill seeks to
address inflation and aid disabled firefighters who are struggling to live
on fixed incomes.

S.2727 would allow volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers to receive
both personal income tax credits of up to $200 and real property tax
exemptions of up to $3000 off the assessed value of their homes.  In recent
years, both the state and local governments have offered tax incentives for
the express purpose of promoting volunteerism in the emergency services
field, but volunteers have had to choose between personal income tax
benefits or real property tax breaks.  This legislation would make
volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers eligible for both programs.

S.3126 would require the state university trustees to develop guidelines
for a service learning, internship or independent study program to enable
budding volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers to get academic credit
for their activities through SUNY schools and community colleges. By
combining community service and academic learning, the new program would
help to encourage greater volunteerism, particularly among college students
who might not otherwise have the time or opportunity to join a volunteer
fire or ambulance company.

S.888 would require that death benefits provided to the surviving
beneficiary of a volunteer firefighter or ambulance worker who died in the
line of duty be paid out within 90 days of the filing of the benefits
application.  This will allow adequate time to determine the facts of the
injury or death and would help to ensure that claims are processed more
expeditiously.  In one known case, a benefits claim for a widow took two
and a half years to come through, and she came close to losing her home.

S.4149 would extend a law affecting volunteer firefighters which creates a
presumption that certain lung diseases leading to their disability or death
of the firefighters were incurred in the performance of their duties. The
bill extends this law, initially enacted in 2006, through June 30, 2020.

“This package of legislation addresses a number of issues that matter to
our volunteer firefighters and ambulance squad members,” said Addabbo.  “By
creating incentives for volunteerism – whether through tax breaks or new
learning opportunities – we will be able to build a more robust network of
dedicated men and women who unselfishly give of their time and talents to
serve others in their times of greatest need.  In addition, by helping to
ensure adequate benefits for volunteer first responders who are injured or
killed in the line of duty, we are showing respect for the most vital needs
of some of our most dedicated community volunteers and their families. I
thank all vollies for their efforts to secure the safety, health and well
being of others.”

The bill extending the law affecting lung disease benefits for firefighters
has been approved by the Senate and the Assembly, and will soon go to the
Governor for his consideration.  The other bills, having passed the Senate,
are under consideration by several different Assembly committees.


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