"This is a valuable loan program that makes it possible for our financially challenged volunteer emergency service companies to purchase needed life-saving equipment and make updates to their facilities," said Baker. "The program's loan amounts have not been adequately updated in more than 20 years. My legislation ensures the amount of the loans granted under the program is up to date with today's costs."
House Bill 1706 (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2013&sind=0&body=H&type=B&BN=1706) would increase the amounts for loans as follows:
* Establishing and modernizing facilities: increased from $200,000 to $400,000, or 50 percent of the total cost, whichever is less.
* Purchasing apparatus, ambulances, etc.: increased from $100,000 to $200,000 or 50 percent of the total cost, whichever is less.
* Aerial apparatus: increased from up to $150,000 to up to $300,000.
* Ambulance or light duty rescue vehicle: increased from up to $50,000 to up to $100,000.
* Watercraft rescue vehicle: increased from up to $15,000 to up to $30,000 or 50 percent of the cost of the ambulance or rescue vehicle, whichever is less.
* Purchasing protective equipment, etc.: increased from up to $10,000 to up to $20,000.
* Repair of apparatus equipment: increased from $1,000-$35,000 to at least $2,000, not more than $70,000 or 80 percent of cost, whichever is less.
* Purchasing used apparatus: increased from $60,000 to $120,000 or 80 percent of cost, whichever is less.
* PennFirs hardware and software, one-time only: increased from up to $2,000 to up to $4,000 or 75 percent of cost, whichever is less.
Baker noted that loan amounts may exceed limits by $20,000 (increased from $10,000) for the purchase of firefighting apparatus, ambulance or rescue vehicles manufactured/assembled in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 1706 also would allow companies that merge or consolidate to hold up to a combined total of up to 10 loans for a period of 10 years.
"Currently, only three loans can be held by the companies, which could prevent fire, rescue and ambulance companies in close proximity to one another from consolidating, which is often a smart financial move that allows better service for a given community or communities which they serve," said Baker. "My legislation provides the flexibility needed to make the best decisions possible for a volunteer emergency service organization and the area it serves."
The legislation also would authorize the Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) the ability to determine collateral against a loan provided through VLAP.
House Bill 1706 is supported by the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, the Pennsylvania Firemen's Federation, the Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania, OSFC, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
Written by Targeted News Service