AP NEWS

Loan forgiveness possible for volunteer fire, EMS personnel with senate bill

January 19, 2018

If a new senate bill becomes law, it will make volunteer fire and EMS personnel eligible for the federal student loan forgiveness program.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) introduced the bill, along with two co-sponsors, on Dec. 7, 2017. The bill has been introduced but has not been put up for a vote yet.

The bill, Volunteer First Responder Loan Forgiveness Act, would make volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel eligible for the loan-forgiveness program. The program allows government employees and non-profit employees to have federal student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

National Volunteer Fire Council Chair Kevin D. Quinn said making these personnel eligible for the federal program that already exists is common sense.

“Volunteer emergency responders donate countless hours each year training and responding to emergencies, and are the sole providers of emergency services in nearly 20,000 communities across the nation,” said Quinn in a statement Wednesday.

Nearly two-thirds of the nation relies on volunteer personnel to fight their fires, which includes the fire department in Monroe and several surrounding towns.

Monroe Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Kevin Catalano said his department fully supports and appreciates the bill, along with any other incentives that helps recruit and retain volunteer firefighters.

“Any benefit we can offer volunteer firefighters, particularly young adults, will help maintain or increase our staffing levels which have steadily declined over the years,” Catalano said.

He said a growing number of Monroe’s younger members attended or are currently attending colleges and universities.

“This proposed incentive also helps show our nation’s appreciation toward volunteers who provide essential life safety services at a substantial savings to local taxpayers since we incur no labor costs,” Catalano said.