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Donnelly: Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders

December 17, 2013

  12/18/13 Senator Joe Donnelly announced his support for the Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act Tuesday, a bill that would amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to clarify that volunteer emergency service workers are not required to be counted as full-time equivalents (FTEs) for the purposes of health care coverage.

“Volunteer firefighters and other first responders who donate their time to serve Hoosiers are an essential part of many Indiana communities,” said Donnelly.  “It is important that fire departments are able to distinguish between full-time, paid emergency personnel and volunteer personnel so they can keep costs low and services at full capacity.  This bipartisan bill is another common sense way that we can clarify the Affordable Care Act to better work for Hoosiers.” 

Under the ACA, employers with more than 50 full-time employees or FTEs are required to provide employees with health insurance or face a penalty.  Because the IRS already considers volunteer emergency personnel as employees for federal tax purposes, there is concern that volunteers will be included in the FTE calculation.

This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Congressional Fire Services Institute.

In June, Donnelly and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Forty Hours is Fully Time Act of 2013, which would change the definition of “full time” in the ACA from 30 to 40 hours per week and the number of hours counted toward a “full-time equivalent” employee up to 174 hours per month. Donnelly and Collins proposed this change to bring it in line with what most Americans have traditionally recognized as full time.  Donnelly noted that some employers have chosen to cut current part-time employees’ hours due to this definition, which leaves too many Indiana families struggling to make ends meet.