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Legislation benefits Tennessee’s Volunteer Firefighters

Volunteer Firefighters would benefit by several proposals under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly this year.

House Bill 612 proposes to incentivize volunteer firefighter recruitment by establishing a retirement system called a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP). The legislation authorizes the State Treasurer to inquire with local governments and the volunteer fire departments about establishing a LOSAP plan for volunteers providing firefighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, and ambulance services.

The majority of Tennessee’s firefighters are volunteers. The State Fire Marshal’s Office reported 22,065 active firefighters in Tennessee in 2020. Of that, 14,218 (64 percent) are volunteers and 7,847 (35.6 percent) are career firefighters.

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LOSAPs may be defined contribution plans, similar to 401k, or defined benefit plans, like a pension. Such a program is funded by contributions from the local government or nonprofit entities that utilize the services of eligible volunteers. To be eligible to receive benefits from the LOSAP, an individual must be a bona fide volunteer who receives no compensation for the services and instead receives only reimbursement for reasonable expenses or benefits and nominal fees customarily paid to them. House Bill 612 is scheduled for consideration in the Local Government Committee this week. 

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