For Immediate Release
Volunteer Fire Department’s Workers Compensation Premium Increase Relief
The West Virginia State Fireman’s Association would like to thank the Senate and the House of Delegates for working to help resolve the crisis facing West Virginia’s volunteer fire departments related to projected increases in Worker’s Compensation premiums. At 9 am on the morning of the last day of the session, the legislation needed to assist the volunteer fire service appeared stalled in both the Senate and the House. The WVSFA leadership went to work by personally meeting with Senators and Delegates one-on-one and with various committees to get the legislation moving. Many individual Senators and Delegates assisted in the bill’s resuscitation. After passing through the Senate Finance Committee (Senator Prezioso, Chairman), with the support of the Governor’s Office and the leadership of the Senate and House of Delegates, a bi-partisan, bi-chamber bill was adopted.
Without State help, many departments were faced with closing their doors as of July 1, 2011. WVSFA Officers and the Legislative Committee with support of the Governor’s Office, worked late into the night with members of both the Senate and the House on the final day of the session to hammer out a plan for relief. House Bill 3271 which had been amended in the Senate, was sent back to the House for review and finally passed at 11:15 p.m. – just 45 minutes before the close of the 2011 session. The bill will provide for $5,000,000 to be set aside in a fund to help departments offset anticipated increases in Worker’s Compensation premiums – some increases are projected to be as high as 700%. Volunteer Fire Departments, many of which are already running on extremely tight budgets, simply had no way to absorb the projected increases in coverage which is mandated by law in order for these departments to operate.
The funds will be placed into an account that volunteer fire departments may use to offset the increases that they incur. The bill that passed provides the $5,000,000 for one (1) year which will allow time for options on a permanent solution to be explored. The State Association will need to come back to next year’s legislative session to find a permanent solution. Members of the Senate and the House of Delegates have acknowledged the need for a permanent solution to this crisis.
The West Virginia State Fireman’s Association would like to thank our lobbyist, Sam Love, Glenn Whittington of the Buffalo VFD, the members of the Cedar Grove VFD, and all of our firefighters who called and emailed the legislators and let them know how important this legislation was for West Virginia’s fire service. The officers, Legislative Committee and Publicity Committee will continue to keep everyone informed of the status of Worker’s Compensation for volunteer fire departments and the legislative rules that will be enacted to access the funds.