A senior U.S. Treasury Department official said in a letter to several members of New York’s congressional delegation yesterday that hours worked by volunteer first responders won’t count toward the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers with a least 50 full-time employees provide health insurance, Gannett’s Washington Bureau reports.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs, fire and emergency groups from around the country, and various members of Congress contacted the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service with concerns about the 2010 law’s potential impact on volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps, according to a letter from Alastair Fitzpayne, assistant treasury secretary for legislative affairs.
“The forthcoming final regulations generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental entities or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining an employer’s full-time employees,’’ Fitzpayne wrote.
Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, wrote in a blog post that the law’s final regulations, which are expected to be released soon, strike the “appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our Nation’s first responder units, many of which rely heavily on volunteers.”
William Metcalf, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ president and board chairman, said in a statement on the organization’s website that fire and emergency services had won an “important victory.”
“The Administration recognizes the special nature of America’s volunteer firefighters and the critical role they serve in protecting their communities,” he said.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, wrote to the IRS last month to lobby for the exemption from the Affordable Care Act mandate.
“This is a common-sense ruling by the federal government that will prevent unintended hardship on volunteer departments that faithfully and selflessly serve to protect our communities,” Higgins said in a statement.