U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) announced Friday that volunteer emergency service workers will not be required to be counted as full-time equivalent employees for purposes of healthcare coverage, which could have gutted the ranks of emergency first responders across the country, according to a news release from the Senator's office.
In a response to a letter that Sen. Warner sent in December, the U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service agreed Friday to exempt volunteer emergency responders from the healthcare mandate.
Some volunteer firefighters are nominally paid, and most volunteer first responders have other full-time employment. Many emergency response agencies do not have the resources to provide pay or benefits to volunteers, nor do most volunteer first responders expect to receive compensation or health coverage as a result of their volunteer public service.
An estimated 48,000 volunteer firefighters serve across Virginia and an estimated 454 volunteer EMT's, according to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs the Virginia Department of Health, respectively.
“This is a huge victory for volunteer emergency responders and the communities that rely on them,” Sen. Warner said. “I’ve said all along that there will be issues that arise with health care reform and that we should work in a bipartisan way to fix them. I am proud that together, we were able to solve this issue and keep America’s first responders working for their communities.”