Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced today that he has donated nearly $60 million in aid to support volunteer firefighters across Pennsylvania – a nearly $5 million increase over last year.
“State aid provided to volunteer firefighters’ relief associations helps dedicated first responders save lives and protect our communities,” DePasquale said during a visit to the Steelton Fire Department in Dauphin County. “The state funding I am announcing today will help provide life-saving equipment, critical training and insurance for tens of thousands of volunteer firefighters all across the state.”
- Erie County received more than $962,000.
- Crawford County received more than $335,000.
- Warren County received more than $150,000.
- McKean County received more than $148,000.
- Venango County received more than $191,000.
- Clarion County received more than $182,000.
All of these donations will be divided among volunteer fire departments across the specific county awarded.
Under DePasquale’s 2019 state aid distribution, 2,518 municipalities received $59.99 million for distribution to volunteer firefighters’ relief associations (VFRAs). The funding comes from a 2 percent state tax on fire insurance premiums purchased by Pennsylvania residents from out-of-state insurance companies.
The state aid helps to reduce burdens on local taxpayers, according to Eugene Vance, Fire Chief of the Steelton Fire Department and President of the Steelton VFRA. “Every year it gets harder and harder to keep up. The number of volunteers keeps dropping. Our costs keep going up. Money is tight,” said Vance, who has been a volunteer firefighter for nearly 50 years.
DePasquale repeated his call for the General Assembly to consider giving VFRAs greater flexibility to use the state aid they receive in ways that meet specific local needs. Current state law tightly restricts how the money may be spent. “I want to make sure that the law governing the use of state aid is keeping up with changes in how fire services are provided,” he said.
Act 118 of 2010 governs the overall operation of volunteer firefighter relief associations, which are legally separate from the fire departments they support. State aid provided under the law is intended to solely benefit volunteer firefighters.
In addition to distributing the funding to VFRAs, the Department of the Auditor General also audits those organizations to ensure state aid is spent appropriately. The state aid was distributed to municipalities on Sept. 16 and must be transferred to VFRAs within 60 days of receipt.