Help is needed to pass the Heroes Act
By Ken LaSala, International Association of Fire Chiefs
As COVID-19 cases surge in many states across the nation, the Senate will begin work next week on a new COVID-19 relief bill. Now is an excellent time to contact your Senators and make sure that aid to fire and EMS departments is included in this new legislation.
The House already passed more legislation to help the nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 15, it passed the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) to help state and local governments respond to COVID-19 and deal with the effects of the economic downturn. The $3 trillion bill included several provisions to help local fire and EMS departments:
- $500 million for the AFG program
- Waivers to local cost-share and maintenance of expenditure requirements.
- $500 million for the SAFER program
- Waivers to local cost-share and related requirements.
- Waivers to allow the re-hire and retention of firefighters.
- 100% federal cost-share for COVID-19 response costs incurred under the Stafford Act.
- Permanent extension of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), which exempts any property tax benefit and up to $600 in other state and local benefits from federal taxation.
- First responders are permitted to deduct up to $500 from their personal income tax for expenditures on training tuition and uniforms.
- For 2020, first responders and “COVID-19 front line employees” may include “supplies” and “equipment” in their deductible expenses along with tuition and uniforms.
- Repeal of the requirement to auction public safety spectrum in the T-Band (470-512 MHz).
Chief Gary Ludwig, the IAFC’s President and Chairman of the Board, has issued a call to action asking IAFC members to contact their Senators about these public safety provisions. You also can use the IAFC’s Legislation Action Center to send an email directly to your Senators.