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New bill could provide affordable housing to first responders

The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act is reintroduced
The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act is reintroduced(WEAU)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - The Volunteer First Responder Act is a bipartisan bill that has been reintroduced by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and three other Senators from various states.

“We are advancing bipartisan legislation that would create a greater incentive to do this sort of community service by qualifying EMT’s and first responder firefighter for two programs,” Baldwin said.

One program that could be provided is the United Stated Agricultural Departments single family housing guaranteed loan program and the other is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments good neighbor next door sales program.

“What this would permit is people who are emergency first responders and volunteer in their communities to have a little additional income and still qualify for those programs”, Baldwin said.

Nels Gunderson is the Fire Chief of the Osseo Fire Department. He believes if this bill is passed, it could help the whole community.

“If we could give them a long-term benefit to help being a long-term volunteer would be helpful to the whole community,” Gunderson said.

Volunteer first responders take time off work to go through 60-plus hours of training and are on call in the case of an emergency. Sometimes they have to leave work and drop what they are doing to help the community. Th

This bill would provide not just finical housing assistance, but it could also be a way to help retain and recruit future volunteers.

“There’s always the question, can they or can’t they not get off work,” Gunderson said. “Can they or can they not get away from family? Do they have daycare available to provide the time they need to participate? Those are all challenges we have, this is a small token of help.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 67% of firefighters nationwide are volunteers. According Baldwin, Wisconsin relies heavily on those volunteers to serve our communities.

“We rely on volunteer or partly volunteer fire departments throughout Wisconsin,” Baldwin said. “I think 93% of our fire departments and EMT services are volunteer either wholly or partly.”

To read more about the Volunteer First Responder Act, click here. To learn about the those involved in trying to get the bill based, click here.

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