Local firefighters talk bill that would provide tax credit to volunteer emergency workers

Local firefighters say their passion is to help people, and they worry with the current shortage of volunteers, that help may fall short.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:35 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Across Illinois, nearly 70% of communities rely on volunteer firefighters, and now legislators propose a $500 dollar tax credit to serve them.

The West Suburban Fire Department is made up of all volunteers. West Suburban Fire Department Deputy Chief Kay Gober says they juggle their everyday lives, on top of serving the more than 6500 people in their district.

“We all have full time jobs so, we drop everything, if there’s a fire we drop everything and we come,” said Gober. “If it wasn’t for the volunteers we’d have no medical, we’d have no fire, because Rockford fire is so tied up with what their district covers.”

Advocates believe the people who give up their time to fight for our lives, deserve more than the average stipend, which is under $10,000 dollars a year. They think the legislation providing a $500 dollar tax credit to volunteers is a start.

“Being parents at home, and then coming in every third or fourth night to provide a service, so I think with having a tax credit like that it’s going to help,” said New Milford Fire Department Deputy Chief Matt Niezgodzki.

Niezgodzki believes this will also help with the current shortage of firefighters they are seeing across Illinois, and give those who are considering volunteering, an extra push.

“You know the numbers are dwelling because the training expectations are high, and we hold our guys to a high standard,” said Niezgodski.

Both Niezgodzki and Gober say they pursued this career because they care about people, and it’s never been about the money for them. But in times like these, it may be needed.

“We need this bill to help support the volunteers,” said Gober “Because without the volunteers we have no coverage...and we need the people.”

The bill is currently stuck in the house, while revenue groups review how much the credit will cost. There will be a hearing on the bill tomorrow where advocates hope the bill can move ahead and pass before the end of session. It has already passed through the senate unanimously.

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