Grant consultant urges Pa. citizens to support fire, EMS loan program
Jerry Brant, a senior grant consultant for Lexipol, wrote an op-ed urging support for upcoming ballot initiatives impacting public safety
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
This year's primary election will feature several ballot questions for your consideration.
A number of potential voters that I have spoken with recently find these questions ambiguous and difficult to understand. In some instances, that may be the case, but to me one ballot question stands out and clearly needs the support of all Pennsylvania voters.
That question is the statewide referendum on Act 2020-91 making municipal fire and EMS departments eligible for low-interest loans.
It is important to understand:
—The General Assembly established the Volunteer Companies Loan Fund on July 15, 1976, with Act 208. The Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP) provides loans at a fixed 2% interest rate to volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue companies for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or improvement of apparatus, facilities, and equipment.
—Since its inception, the program has approved more than $489 million in loans for the Commonwealth's volunteer emergency services community.
—The loan fund is solvent, and every year enjoys a significant surplus. The current balance is 47 million dollars.
—The loans are paid back with interest.
—The loans do not cover the full cost of the apparatus.
—Currently, 60 to 77 vehicles are funded each year. It is estimated that adding 30 additional career departments would likely generate one additional vehicle loan per year and will not negatively impact the program or cause loan requests to be refused because of a lack of funding.
Through legislation, Pennsylvania established the SR 6 Commission in 2017.
The commission was tasked with developing initiatives and recommendations to stabilize the delivery of fire and EMS services across Pennsylvania. After months of meetings and public hearings, the commission delivered 92 recommendations to the state legislature for consideration.
One of those recommendations was to expand the state low-interest loan program (VLAP) to municipal fire and EMS agencies.
Currently, these municipal departments cannot access the loan program.
Approval of this ballot question would not increase the indebtedness of the commonwealth or the loan fund. It would not increase taxes or fees on any state resident. It would simply allow career and combination fire and EMS agencies to borrow from an already established, well-organized loan program.
I join with fire and EMS leaders from across Pennsylvania and ask you to vote "yes" to approve the referendum on Act 2020-91.
(c)2021 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)
Editor's note: Jerry Brant is a columnist for EMS1 and FireRescue1 and senior grants consultant for the sites' parent company, Lexipol.