ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Legislation to give tax exemptions to volunteer firefighters and EMS workers was recently signed by Governor Hochul. Our Capitol Correspondent Amal Tlaige spoke with experts who explained why the legislation is needed to attract and retain our volunteers. 

“Well contrary to popular belief and popular culture, most fire and emergency response in New York and frankly across the country is done by volunteers,” said John D’Alessandro, Association Secretary for the Fire Fighters Association of the State of NY.

In fact, that number could be 70% volunteer firefighters according to D’Alessandro, who said New York has seen a decline in volunteer firefighters, making it challenging to respond to calls adequately, but they’re doing everything possible to fill those spots. “We have numerous programs, everything from this tax break to providing college tuition reimbursement, you know we have a number of bills that we still continue to pursue, that would create more incentives for the men and women who want to volunteer and can volunteer to protect their communities,” he said.

D’Alessandro said the main reason for the decline could be people think they may not have the time to commit. “Despite what people think—that I have to be that person on the end of a hose line running into a burning building—there are dozens of jobs in your local volunteer fire department and if you’ve got a skill set and you got a little bit of time, we are happy to take that and to put it to good use,” he said.

The bill will allow local municipalities to provide up to 10% in property tax exemption to volunteers. Key sponsor of the bill, Assembly member Angelo Santababara said this will help keep well deserved money in their pockets. “They do so much work for our community. They respond, they keep us safe, they respond to fires, emergencies, car crashes you name it they do it. And like I said, they volunteer, they’re dedicated, they take time out of their day to provide the services for us and our upstate communities really can’t function without them.

D’Alessandro said if you think you may be interested in becoming a volunteer, look to your local fire department on a night when they’re drilling to get a feel for what the job entails. I