MONTEVALLO, Ala. (WIAT) – A Shelby County Alabama lawmaker is proposing an income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and rescue team members in hopes of hiring more first responders.
Representative Russell Bedsole showed off the HB 253 this week.
“Estimates across our state indicate that there are approximately 1,000 volunteer fire departments serving approximately 2 million residents of our state,” Rep. Bedsole said.
Voluntary services in rural areas struggle to find people willing to volunteer.
Although full-time paid firefighters also put everything on the line, the costs of volunteer crews can often come out of pocket.
“Our volunteers use their gas, their vehicles, their vehicle maintenance, whatever comes and goes from the station when we have calls,” Montevallo Volunteer Fire Chief Brad Davis said.
Most volunteers also have full-time jobs and must clock in once they are paged.
“You have some who will leave to make the call and at that time they’re not being paid by their other work, so it’s a sacrifice at that time,” Davis said.
Since the state saves money by not paying benefits to volunteers, Bedsole wants to see an income tax credit.
According to his plan, there would be requirements to receive the money. A basic certification for a firefighter would pay up to $300.
A more advanced certification could earn up to $600.
“It is going to require these men and women, not only in service, but they are active in their local agency, to train with them and there will be documentation of training hours so that the community benefits from these men and women who serve, and then individuals receive this tax incentive,” Bedsole said.
If lawmakers pass the bill, leaders hope more people will consider stepping in to respond when seconds count.
“Recruiting volunteers at this point is very difficult, there aren’t as many people wanting to volunteer as there were 20 years ago,” Davis said.
According to Rep. Bedsole, the money would come from the state education trust fund budget. He plans to talk with other lawmakers to review the details and make sure the proposal doesn’t pull dollars from needy schools.
To learn more about HB 253, click here.