NVFC Names Representative Lou Barletta 2014 Legislator of the Year

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is pleased to announce that Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) will receive the Council’s 2014 Legislator of the Year award for his leadership in helping volunteer fire and EMS agencies avoid tax penalties under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) for failing to furnish nominally-compensated volunteer responders with health insurance coverage.

Late last year, Barletta introduced  H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, clarifying that volunteer emergency responders, including those who receive nominal recruitment and retention benefits, are not considered employees of the agencies they serve under the PPACA. The NVFC was very concerned about possible penalties for agencies and sent a formal request to the Department of Treasury last September that asked that volunteers be formally exempted from the employer mandate under health care reform.

Within weeks of being introduced, H.R. 3979 had garnered more than 100 co-sponsors. On March 11, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 3979 by a vote of 410-0.

“This is a tremendous victory for anyone who lives and works in an area that depends on volunteer firefighters for their safety – which means a huge majority of Americans,” said Representative Barletta after H.R. 3979 passed the House. “Firehouses and municipalities across the country need assurance that they won’t have to pay costly fines or shut their doors. This bill provides them with that security.”

“On behalf of volunteer emergency services agencies across the country, I’d like to thank Representative Barletta for his leadership on this critical issue,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “Clarifying that nominally-compensated volunteers will not be treated as employees under health care reform is a top priority for the NVFC.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Treasury published final implementing regulations clarifying that volunteers will not be counted as employees under the PPACA. The regulatory language was very similar to H.R. 3979 and Treasury referenced input received from members of Congress and those in the volunteer emergency services community as the reason for deciding to exempt volunteers from the employer mandate. Enactment of H.R. 3979, which is pending in the Senate, would embed the volunteer exemption in statute.

According to a press release on his web site, “Barletta was first alerted to the issue during a parade in the 11th District by Robert Timko, a volunteer firefighter for the Fairview Township Fire Company, who also serves as the Pennsylvania Alternate Director for the National Volunteer Fire Council. Barletta then sent a letter to the IRS seeking the clarification regarding volunteer firefighters and their status under the Employer Mandate Provision contained in Obamacare.”

The award presentation is planned to take place in conjunction with the NVFC’s Spring Board Meeting in Alexandria, VA, on May 2-3.