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Courtney: No Obamacare impact to vol FDs

January 23, 2014
In The News

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, was in Windham Center Tuesday to quell concerns the Affordable Care Act would apply to volunteer fire departments. “The cost of providing health care would be catastrophic (for volunteer fire departments),” Courtney said.  The Affordable Care Act mandates employers with more than 50 employees offer health care or pay a penalty.

An estimated nine out of 10 fire departments in the United States are staffed by volunteers who receive some type of compensation for their service, such as uniform allowances, a fact some feared could be construed as employee status.  Courtney said Tuesday — in an appearance at the Windham Center Fire Department — that this has been clarified as not to be the case. That was good news for the volunteer departments. “Volunteer fire departments are not employees for the purpose of the Affordable Care Act,” Courtney said. This was clarified in a correspondence to Courtney from the U.S. Department of the Treasury earlier this month.

Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alastair Fitzpayne, in a letter to Courtney, stated: “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 of full-time equivalent employees.”  Windham Center Fire Department Chief Lloyd Niles, who was present for Courtney’s visit, was among those relieved with the clarification. “This was a concern for the volunteer fire departments. It would have put a big burden on all our fire departments in the state,” Niles said. On hand for the announcement were State Rep. Brian Sear, D- Canterbury, and state Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester, whose includes a small portion of Windham.