Tax credit for volunteer emergency responders discussed

The Revenue Committee heard testimony March 13 on a bill that would provide an income tax credit for volunteer emergency responders.

LB440, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor, would authorize a $500 refundable tax credit for volunteer emergency responders meeting established criteria. Gloor said the bill addresses a public safety issue.

“When we’re in an accident, the first person we see isn’t the thoracic surgeon; it’s the first responders.” he said. “And we’re having trouble finding people to fill these positions.”

To qualify for the credit, volunteers must earn at least 50 out of 100 points during one year of service. Volunteers could earn:
• 25 points for responding to 10 percent of emergency response calls from their assigned station;
• up to 25 points for participation in training courses;
• one point for participation in each drill lasting at least two hours, with a maximum total of 20 points;
• one point for attendance at an official meeting of the volunteer department or mutual aid organization, up to 10 points;
• 10 points for completion of a term in certain elected or appointed positions; and
• one point for participation in each public fire prevention activity.

A refundable tax credit of $500 also would be available for any volunteer who qualifies as an active emergency responder, rescue squad member or firefighter under the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act.

Representing the Nebraska Volunteer Firefighters Association, Micheal Dwyer testified in support of the bill. He said volunteer first responders place themselves in danger for very little compensation.

“Over 70 percent of Nebraska is covered by volunteer firefighters and rescue staff,” he said. “These men and women leave family dinner sitting on the table to protect the lives and property of fellow Nebraskans.”

Deb Von Seggern, representing the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association, also supported the bill, saying that volunteers take on significant time and financial burdens when they decide to serve.

“We are constantly looking for ways to recruit and retain volunteers,” she said. “We have trouble finding young people to volunteer because of the time commitment and low pay. The one thing that has always worked is incentives.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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