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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act of 2013. This bill fixes a long-standing problem with the tax code that impedes the ability of volunteer fire departments to recruit and retain both firefighter and emergency service personnel.
For years, local and State governments have provided their volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel with different forms of benefits including Length of Service Award Plans, commonly known as LOSAPs. These are pension-like benefits for volunteer emergency responders.
Unfortunately, the way the tax code handles LOSAPs hinders departments' abilities to administer the plans and makes it more difficult for volunteer emergency personnel to receive the benefits.
My bill would simplify the taxation of LOSAPs in two steps. First, it would allow LOSAPs to be elected as deferred compensation plans, and second, it would exempt them from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. These two changes will improve access to LOSAP benefits for volunteer emergency responders, without increasing federal spending.
Today, an estimated 180,000 volunteer firefighters across 27 states participate in some form of LOSAP. Many States that do not offer these benefits would be more likely to do so if the Federal tax code were simplified. This, in turn, would help volunteer fire departments to recruit more easily and retain personnel. These men and women, our local first responders, are the foundation of our emergency response capabilities.
These volunteers put their lives on the line to help protect our communities, and their spirit of selflessness and service should be rewarded. I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Schumer, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill through the Senate and into law.