H.R. 3979: Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, as amended

H.R. 3979

Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, as amended

Ways and Means

March 11, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, under a suspension of the rules.  The bill was introduced on January 31, 2013 by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which ordered the bill reported by a vote of 37-0.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3979 amends Section 4980H(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to ensure that 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).


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 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 could 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 could 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.

[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.


CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 3979 would have no significant budgetary effect.[1]  Enacting H.R. 3979 would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Additional Information

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