Barrar seeks ways to boost emergency service volunteers

State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, hosted a pair of public hearings this week examining ways to increase volunteers to the state’s Emergency Medical Services system. The hearings also touched on the funding and efficiency of the EMS system.

Barrar said there were 68,000 EMS volunteers across Pennsylvania when he took office in 1997. Now, there are 50,000.

Barrar said many volunteers, which include firefighters and EMS responders, have grown frustrated by the amount of time they must spend fundraising simply to keep the firehouse open. Finding a solution to better fund EMS services will help retain volunteers, Barrar said.

“It’s getting to the critical point where we really need to do something extreme to start bringing volunteers back in,” Barrar said. “The solution has to be a partnership between the local municipalities and the state government. The local municipalities can’t expect the state to do it all.”

The hearing included discussion on 17 pieces of legislation designed to retain volunteers. Among the ideas considered: college tuition scholarships, tax credits for emergency responders and tax credits for employers who permit employees to take a paid leave to attend an emergency.

Barrar said he likely will introduce legislation in March enabling local municipalities to give tax credits to their volunteers.

“I think right now that’s probably the easiest one,” Barrar said. “There’s no funding needed for that.”

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