Legislation Includes Senators Iovino & Kearney Amendment to Allow Volunteer Firefighter Relief Association Funds to be Used for COVID-19 Expenses

Harrisburg, PA – May 13, 2020 – Yesterday evening, the Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1122, which appropriates $538 million in federal CARES Act emergency funding for nursing and long-term care facilities and creates a COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Grant Program. The bill allocates $449 million in medical assistance for long-term care, $8 million in medical assistance for long-term managed care, $50 million for community health choices, and $31 million for fire & EMS grants.

The legislation passed by the Senate yesterday included an amendment introduced by Senator Pam Iovino (D – Allegheny & Washington) which clarifies that Volunteer Firefighter Relief Association (VFRA) funds may be used for expenses related to sanitizing and disinfecting equipment and property during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing clarity that these are allowable VFRA expenses would eliminate any ambiguity and concern of an audit on volunteer fire departments in the middle of a pandemic. This amendment was based on legislation authored by Senator Tim Kearney (D – Chester & Delaware) and Senator Iovino.

“The unanimous passage of this legislation is a refreshing reminder that the Pennsylvania State Senate can unite in a bipartisan manner to deliver the emergency relief needed all across our Commonwealth during this crisis,” said Senator Iovino. “I am particularly pleased that the final bill included clarifications and protections for volunteer firefighters who are working to keep our communities safe during this public health crisis. Volunteer fire departments in my district and across this state are incurring additional costs for disinfecting and sanitizing their equipment and property. This amendment, written with my colleague, Senator Tim Kearney, gives these volunteer fire departments certainty that these expenses will be covered during these uncertain times.”

“During this pandemic, our volunteer firefighters have been incurring high costs related to COVID-19 but have limited ability to fundraise,” said Senator Kearney. “After a number of volunteer fire departments in my district reached out and explained they could not use their VFRA funds to pay for disinfecting their equipment, I knew we had to act to fix this oversight. Together with Senator Iovino, we introduced our legislation to ensure Pennsylvania’s firefighters have the resources they need to keep their members safe as they work to keep our communities safe. Our effort also ensures there will be no ambiguity about these costs when audits are conducted. I am so pleased the Senate recognized the importance of this issue and unanimously agreed to our amendment.”

The legislation will now go to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.