H.R. 33

Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders

Committee
Ways and Means

Date
January 12, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
David Smentek

Floor Situation

On Monday, January 12, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 33, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, under a suspension of the rules.  The bill was introduced on January 6, 2015 by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

Bill Summary

H.R. 33 is substantively identical to H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, which passed the House on March 11, 2014 by a vote of 410-0.  (See Roll Call #116).

H.R. 33 amends Section 4980H(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to ensure that the volunteer hours worked by qualified emergency service volunteers are not counted when determining full-time employees or full-time equivalents of a given employer for purposes of the employer mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Background

The employer mandate, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, requires all businesses with more than 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees (defined as more than 30 hours per week) to provide employer-sponsored insurance.  Businesses not in compliance face a $2,000 noncompliance penalty for each full-time employee beyond the 30th they hire in addition to the salary and benefits they must provide to their employees.[1] Many communities rely on volunteer fire departments for fire protection and emergency medical services.[2]  Because volunteer firefighters receive nominal incentives and their work schedules result in work weeks longer than 30 hours, volunteer fire departments may be required to provide health insurance to their employees.[3]  The IRS has historically treated volunteer firefighters as “employees” for other tax purposes, and there are concerns that the IRS would treat them as “employees” for purposes of the mandate.[4]  The International Association of Fire Chiefs warned that over 780,000 volunteer firefighters may be subject to these rules, which could lead to volunteer fire departments closing or significantly curtailing their emergency response activities.[5]

In January, the Department of the Treasury released a blog post stating that their final rule would “not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees.”[6] The final regulations release on February 10, 2014 provide that hours of service do not include hours worked as a “bona fide volunteer,” but these regulations have been changed, delayed and amended several times, so there is no certainty that this rule will remain in place.[7]  This legislation would offer certainty and stability to volunteer fire departments by explicitly exempting these organizations from the employer mandate.

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[1] http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/analysis/20130322Jobs.pdf
[2] See House Report 113-360, p. 2.
[3] See Id. at 2.
[4] See Id. at 2.
[5] See Id. at.
[6] See Id. at 2-3.
[7] See Id. at 3.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate for this legislation is currently unavailable.  However, CBO estimated that implementing identical legislation that passed in the 113th Congress would have no significant budgetary effect and would not affect direct spending or revenues.[1]

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[1] http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45103

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.