LETTER – DiMaio bill protecting volunteer firefighters from forced retirement advances to Gov. Christie

Volunteer firefighters, EMTs and ambulance corps who retire with a state pension will no longer be forced to resign their volunteer positions in our communities under legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and approved today by the Assembly. Also sponsored by Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco and John DiMaio, the bill (S21207/A536) passed the Senate in June 2016 and now moves to the Governor’s desk.

An interpretation of language in the Internal Revenue Code requires retiring police officers, DPW workers, or municipal employees who also volunteer as firefighters, EMTs or ambulance corps in the same town, to sever both their employment and non-paid relationship. These employees risk losing pensions if they continue volunteering their time by responding to emergencies.

“Most of our communities rely on our volunteers who are often also municipal employees,” said Schepisi (R—Bergen). “These dedicated, skilled and experienced people respond to emergencies for no more payment than the gratitude of their neighbors. They should be able to continue to protect the community without risking their pensions.

“We can’t change non-sensical IRS code, but we can protect volunteers and limit the effect on towns that rely on volunteers and struggle to find round-the-clock protection for their community,” continued Schepisi, who first introduced the measure in June 2015.

The measure ensures all volunteers, including firefighters, EMTs and ambulance corps who receive state pensions are compliant with state and IRS regulations.

“Volunteers are critical to our towns,” said Bucco (R—Morris), a longtime volunteer who has been with the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department for 37 years. “It is unfathomable to think we would turn away experienced volunteers. I can’t imagine how our towns would manage without the dedicated and selfless first-responders who drop everything, at all hours of the day or night, to come to the aid of their neighbors, not to mention the millions of dollars of tax savings afforded to our residents through their volunteer service. “

 

“It’s senseless to think that hard-working, unpaid everyday heroes would be told they can no longer run into burning buildings to rescue their neighbors without risking their retirement income,” said DiMaio. “This legislation ensures those who put their own lives on hold to answer the alarm can continue to do so without risking their financial future.”