Senate Bill Introduced to Make Volunteers Eligible for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program

On December 7, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Volunteer First Responder Loan Forgiveness Act (S. 2207), along with original cosponsors Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-MO). The bill would make volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which allows government and nonprofit employees to have federal student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

“I’d like to thank Senator Tester for introducing this legislation, and Senators Heitkamp and McCaskill for co-sponsoring it,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Making volunteer firefighters and EMTs eligible for an existing federal program to reward public servants is common sense. Volunteer emergency responders donate countless hours each year training and responding to emergencies, and are the sole providers of emergency services in nearly 20,000 communities across the nation. Passage of this bill will give fire and EMS agencies a powerful recruitment and retention tool, while giving long-serving volunteers the ability to have their college loans forgiven.”

37 percent of the population in the United States lives in a community that is protected by an all- or mostly-volunteer fire department. Volunteer emergency responders serve in all types of communities, but rural areas are particularly dependent on the service of volunteers. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the average age of firefighters protecting communities with populations of 2,500 or fewer residents has steadily increased over the past three decades, to the point where nearly a third of all firefighters in these jurisdictions are over the age of 50. Allowing volunteer firefighters and EMTs to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program would create an economic incentive for younger volunteers to maintain active service over a long period of time.

You can use the NVFC’s Legislative Action Center to contact your U.S. Senators to ask them to co-sponsor S. 2207.