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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NYS Senate Passes Bill Giving Volunteer Firefighters Access to Critical Health Benefits

The New York State Senate this week passed legislation to extend critical benefits to volunteer firefighters as they risk their health and safety to protect others. The bill (S3891), sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), amends the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law to provide heightened levels of protections for firefighters that contract certain cancer-related diseases while serving as volunteers.   
Senator Nozzolio said, “Volunteer firefighters fight the same fires as paid firefighters and they take the same risks to protect our safety and I believe they should be provided with the same protections in law. As the representative of a sprawling rural district, volunteer firemen protect the life and property of the majority of my district and play an integral role in our local communities.”
This bill would provide presumptive cancer coverage to the more than 100,000 volunteer firefighters in New York. An increased number of firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer and recent medical studies have concluded that they are at a significantly higher risk for many types of cancer than the general population. This is due to the high levels of carcinogens and other toxins found in burning buildings and the other hazardous environments that firefighters routinely work in. 
The bill will be sent to the Assembly.

In addition to this measure, the Senate was also able to recently secure $250,000 as part of the enacted 2016-17 State Budget to support the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. This funding will help increase the number of volunteer firefighters through promotional materials, public service announcements, and other tools that highlight the importance of promoting public safety and protecting local communities.