Supporting Firefighters in our Community
Firefighters and other first responders work tirelessly to keep us safe. My staff and I have visited many fire companies across Southeastern Pennsylvania to learn more about their operations, equipment, recruiting efforts, and needs. It is important we provide them with community support, which is why I am always pleased to announce federal assistance for our local first responders.
This morning, I visited Sanatoga Fire Company to announce an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The regional grant will provide resources, such as coats, boots, gloves, and fire-resistant hoods that will benefit approximately 120 firefighters in the Pottstown area. The AFG program can provide a range of tools for firefighters and first responders, including funds for training, equipment, facilities, and other materials necessary for their work.
Since coming to Congress, I have signed onto funding requests for the AFG program, as well as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program. Both of these grants are awarded through a competitive process to career and volunteer fire departments, and both grants are intended to help meet equipment, training, and staffing needs.
I have been pleased to support the hard work of first responders and their families through legislation in Congress that acknowledge first responders’ work from their time at the fire company through retirement. These efforts include lightening the financial burden of a student whose parent or guardian passed in the line of duty as a firefighter, police officer, or other public safety officer to tax relief on volunteer firefighters’ benefits. To ensure federal firefighters do not face unnecessary hurdles on their path to retirement, I voted for legislation, which is now law, that would prevent a ten percent penalty tax on early distributions from a government retirement plan. I also cosponsored legislation last month that would protect volunteer firefighters from being considered full-time employees under the shared responsibility requirements of the employer mandate.
Lastly, making sure we meet the unique healthcare needs of our firefighters is also critically important. I am working to establish a national registry to collect data on the increased risk to firefighters for several major cancers. Registries, such as a Firefighter Cancer Registry, improve the ability of researchers to have access to relevant information that will hopefully identify better preventative measures and develop groundbreaking cures.
These measures provide necessary relief for the first responders who are serving on the front lines of our communities, and I will continue to look for opportunities to support their needs. It was an honor to spend time with Sanatoga Fire Company this morning to discuss their AFG grant and thank each of them for their service.