Committee gives unanimous support to Sen. Curry bill to support first responders

Sat, 04/01/2023 - 9:30am

    AUGUSTA — The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously this week in favor of a bill from Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast.

    LD 588, “An Act to Promote Public Safety and Retain Essential First Responders by Funding the Maine Length of Service Award Program,” would provide ongoing funding to support retirement benefits for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in Maine.

    “I am grateful for the committee’s strong bipartisan support for our first responders. This unanimous vote sends a clear message that Maine’s Legislature is committed to recognizing the invaluable contributions and sacrifices of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel across our state,” said Sen. Curry. “By fully funding the Length of Service Award Program, we can help ensure these dedicated citizens receive the retirement benefits they deserve while promoting public safety and enhancing the emergency response capabilities of our communities.”

    LD 588 would allocate $2.5 million to the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission beginning in fiscal year 2023-24. This funding will enable the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) to offer retirement contributions to eligible volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.

    LOSAP is designed to reward these first responders for their service to Maine communities, acknowledging their invaluable contributions and selfless service.

    The Maine Fire Services Commission initiated this retention effort in 2003, and the 127th Legislature passed LD 164 to establish LOSAP at the State level.

    In July 2017, a seven-member board appointed by the governor began developing the program's bylaws and rules. However, securing sufficient funding for the initiative has been challenging. LD 1014 from the 129th Legislature failed to pass due to the pandemic. LD 1316 in the 130th Legislature secured funds for a third-party administrator; however, provisions for funding contributions for the 2022-2023 fiscal year were cut.

    LD 588 now faces votes in the Senate and House.