The ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions could affect volunteer firefighters to attain the required 50 points per year through responding to calls, taking part in training and being on call to be eligible for New York state’s length of service award program that serves as a pension fund for the firefighters.
Fire officials said that because of the restrictions many fire department members will not meet the requirements, adding that the quarantining and near shutdown of the New York metropolitan area has rendered the options to gain LOSAP points impractical.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents many South Shore volunteer fire departments, has introduced legislation that helps the firefighters retain the length of service program.
The proposed measure will allow active volunteers to earn up to five points per month during the Covid-19 pandemic and will give departments the ability to set different emergency response requirements for certain members. Firefighters will then only have to respond to the minimum number of emergency calls they are assigned.
“First responders deserve our support and appreciation now more than ever, not an unfair practice that penalizes them for following safety procedures,” Kaminsky stated in a news release. “This law would correct this problem and give them the benefits they deserve.”
Kaminsky said that the volunteers of the Woodmere Fire Department made him aware of the issue. “Thank you to Senator Kaminsky for his leadership and advocacy on behalf of our volunteer firefighters,” Woodmere fire commissioners Ronna Rubenstein and Israel Max said in a joint statement in the release. “This bill will make sure these brave men and women retain their benefits while forced to stay home because of the pandemic.”
It is unclear when the State Senate will discuss the bill. The Assembly and State Senate passed a resolution in late March enabling virtual conferencing and voting.