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Firefighters association calls on Albany to pass a bill aimed to provide relief to volunteer departments

New York State is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't allow fire departments to charge insurance companies for their response and services.

ALBANY, N.Y. — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of emergency response, and volunteer fire departments are no exception. 

According to the Fireman's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) EMS calls to volunteer fire departments increased 49% in 2020. 

That means more house calls, more equipment getting used, and higher expenses for volunteer departments. 

One solution that has been proposed as a bill in Albany is to allow volunteer fire departments to charge insurance companies, not those who they are assisting on a call, for the services they render. 

"We feel as though it's our duty justice, is to try to push this through and educate the governor of the needs of the volunteer fire service to continue to do the service that we do," said Edward Tase, first vice president of FASNY. "We as a volunteer fire services as a whole, we save the taxpayers in New York State over $3 billion a year, in cost recovery. 

Tase says this bill would allow the Erie and Niagara County area to recoup over $7 million in recoveries for the services by charging insurance companies. 

Getting the bills passed in the assembly, however, has been a challenge. 

"This bill has been held up for four years," Tase said. "It's being held up in the Ways and Means Committee in the New York State Assembly, we have this bill is passed the last three consecutive sessions in the Senate but we can't get it out of the assembly."

"And that's unfortunate," Tase added. 

2 On Your Side reached out to Assemblyman Michael Norris, a co-sponsor of the bill. Norris said that one of the reasons the bill hasn't come forward is because technical amendments have been added to it. 

Norris said once the technical amendments are sorted out the Ways and Means Committee review the bill.

Norris told 2 On Your Side that he'll do what he can in that committee to push it through, saying "this is vitally important for our volunteer fire departments."