PA’s DePasquale Calls For Change to Outdated Volunteer Fire Dept. Spending Laws
Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the state is operating on outdated laws in regards to how volunteer fire departments are allowed spend the money that comes from state aid. Current Pennsylvania law restricts how Volunteer Firefighter Relief Associations, or VFRAs, can use the money they receive from state aid, which is why the Auditor General is calling on the state Legislature to make a change.
“The most important thing is making sure the law is updated so our brave firefighters, both professional and volunteer, can do an even better job of protecting our communities across the Commonwealth,” DePasquale says.
The law creating VFRAs, was passed in 1968, and has only been updated twice, the latest being 1984. VFRAs help fire companies buy equipment, pay for training and insurance, and pay death benefits. Today, financially struggling Fire Departments could use the money to spend on other things, but current law doesn’t allow it.
“The law has not kept pace with changing times, and in my view, puts too many restrictions on how relief associations can spend the state aid they receive,” explains DePasquale.
The Auditor General says 59 VFRAs across the state have a fund balance of over 1 million dollars. But because of the current law, that money can’t be used to help pay for other essential items like extra personnel or new technology that could assist firefighters in their daily operations, such as drones.
“Because of the way the current law is written, relief associations lack the flexibility to fully use their allotment of state funding to help other volunteer firefighters protect our communities,” says DePasquale.
Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline says this outdated law is hindering fire companies from protecting their constituents.
“That’s 59 million dollars plus that’s sitting there that can’t serve the citizens of this Commonwealth because of the archaic law that was written in 1968,” says Enterline. “One of the things that has been talked about a lot and we see all the time on the news are drones. Drones are currently not permitted as an allowable expenditure under the VFRA, however when we look at the safety and security of the public and our firefighters, they are a very necessary emergency service component,” he adds.
Auditor General DePasquale says the key word here is flexible, which is the word he used to describe how VFRAs should be able to use state aid.