PULASKI, NY — Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski) today criticized members of the Democrat Conference for blocking proposed legislation (A.4272, Norris) that would create a college scholarship program for volunteer firefighters.
Just days after volunteer fire departments across New York state held their “RecruitNY” campaign effort to generate interest and boost the ranks of emergency personnel, Assembly Democrats rejected a bill aimed at increasing the number of volunteer firefighters and first responders.
“As fire departments are struggling to recruit and retain critical volunteers, Democrats in the Assembly are standing directly in the way of a proposal to help communities throughout the state,” said Leader Barclay. “The number of volunteer firefighters in New York has been in a steep decline for several years. These are brave men and women who are on the front line of emergencies and who routinely risk their lives to save others. They’re essential to the safety of New York’s communities. Blocking this bill defies explanation and illustrates that the priority of One-Party-Rule in New York is completely misguided.”
The proposed legislation creates a scholarship for those who become a volunteer firefighter in an amount of up to four times the current tuition rate at a State University of New York college. The maximum scholarship award would be approximately $28,000. In the recently enacted 2022-23 State Budget, Democrats included a measure to increase tuition assistance for criminals currently serving time in state prisons.
To be eligible, a person would be required to: serve as an active volunteer firefighter for eight years and attend 25% of emergency calls each year; agree to reside in New York state; and annually submit an affidavit verifying participation in at least 25% of emergency calls.
More than 96% of registered fire departments in New York are either partially or fully volunteer. A 2020 report by the National Volunteer Fire Council stated that two-thirds of fire departments have trouble with firefighter retention. A recent news report estimated that the number of volunteer firefighter and EMS in New York state has dropped from 120,000 to 80,000 in the last 20 years.