Senate Can Support Volunteer First Responders by Passing SECURE Act

Dec 2, 2019

I bet you didn’t know the United States is protected by 80% more volunteer firefighters than career firefighters.

I bet you also didn’t know that the number of volunteer firefighters has been dropping precipitously.

Don’t feel bad – I didn’t know these facts either. But I do know this: there is legislation awaiting U.S. Senate approval that will help attract and retain these and other brave volunteers.

That legislation is the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The SECURE Act exempts certain volunteer recruitment and retention incentives from being subject to federal income tax.

Across the nation it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and keep volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians. A report by the National Fire Protection Association estimated that between 2015 and 2017, the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States fell by more than 132,000.

To improve recruitment and retention of volunteers, many fire, emergency medical service, and rescue departments provide benefits, including non-monetary gifts, reductions in property taxes or other stipends. The SECURE Act would benefit an estimated 500,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians by eliminating a tax on these incentives.

These brave men and women would also benefit from other provisions in the SECURE Act that will strengthen Americans’ financial security.

The legislation will allow older workers and retirees to contribute more to their IRAs. It will increase 401(k) coverage for part-time employees. And it will lead more than 700,000 small business workers to start saving for retirement.

About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day and many will live for 30 years or more in retirement. We need to do more to help Americans prepare for retirement, especially since one-third of Americans reaching retirement age have less than $25,000 saved.  

And we need to do more to help the volunteer firefighters and other first responders who risk their lives to protect us.

The SECURE Act can do both. It’s time for the Senate to pass this beneficial legislation.

Susan K. Neely

Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation’s leading trade association determined to help families live better lives by achieving financial security and certainty. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI’s member companies that represent 93 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.