Legislation introduced to increase affordable housing for volunteer firefighters and first responders

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., departs after a vote on Gina Haspel to be CIA director, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, May 17, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) joined Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would provide affordable housing opportunities for volunteer firefighters and first responders in order to help recruit and retain more volunteers, particularly in rural and under-served communities.

The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act would expand eligibility for qualified volunteer first responders to participate in certain federal housing assistance programs and provide a greater incentive for more volunteers to stay and continue to serve their communities.

“Expanding the eligibility for qualified volunteer emergency responders to participate in federal housing assistance programs has a number of benefits,” said Rounds. “It encourages volunteering, provides agencies with a recruitment and retention tool, makes it easier for volunteer responders to remain living in their communities, and is a great way to say ‘thank you’ for their service. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation to support our volunteer emergency responders.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association’s 2017 U.S. Fire Department Profile, 65 percent of firefighters nationwide are volunteers, and fire departments rely on these volunteers to help respond to a wide array of local emergencies. Recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters is critical for thousands of communities, yet local volunteer fire departments, especially those serving small and rural communities, find it difficult to meet staffing needs and attract younger volunteers.

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