(WTNH) — During his entire career in politics, Congressman John Larson says he has fought for permanent tax relief for volunteer first responders.
Recently, Larson’s Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA) was indeed made permanent. So what does it do? It exempts from taxation the nominal recruitment and retention benefits volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel receive from their communities.
“It’s been awhile since making incremental gains and taking two steps forward and a half a step back and never having this permanent,” Larson said, “until in the omnibus bill this year we made this act permanent.”
For many, it was worth the wait and comes at a good time. According to Public Domain Creative Commons, fewer Americans are volunteering. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has seen a sharp decline in volunteer firefighter numbers. The pandemic isn’t helping, But, this should.
“So, the towns that offer the property tax reliefs and other benefits up to $600,00 that they provide, now can do so. And people can serve knowing they’re not going be taxed for their volunteerism,” Larson said.
Robert Duval, the President of the Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association, agrees. “This is something else that we can mention to them. That is one less thing they have to worry about if we give them an incentive, we give them a stipend, it’s not going be taxed right off the bat.”
Larson said this means a lot to him because firefighters, “Always have a special place in my heart.”
His father was a firefighter dating back to when he served on the U.S.S. Franklin, a decorated naval ship.
“He ended up learning his skills during battle,” Larson said. His dad spent 37 years at Pratt and Whitney, and worked his way up the ladder to become the Chief of the Pratt and Whitney Fire Department.
“But through all of that, he always was a volunteer as well,” Larson said. “We were always struck by his having eight kids and knowing how busy he was, but his love for the service and his understanding of how important this was to every community has always created that special part for everyone in my family for firefighters.”