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Minn. bill would give responders $500/year to recruit volunteers

The bill, which has entered the House, would create a pilot program to give volunteer responders an annual $500 grant to attract more recruits

By Sarah Stultz
Albert Lea Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A bill is circulating through the Minnesota House aimed at retaining and recruiting volunteer first responders, firefighters and emergency medical technicians in rural parts of the state.

The bill, authored by District 27A Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, would create a pilot program to be enacted in Freeborn, Faribault, Martin and Blue Earth counties. It would give all volunteer first responders, firefighters and emergency medical technicians $500 grants each year for the next three years.

“Right now we’re having a hard time recruiting firefighters, EMTs and first responders,” Savick said. “We’re hoping that by doing this $500 grant each year it will attract more people who want to be volunteers.”

She said recruiting and retaining volunteers can also affect a community’s business opportunities because if there aren’t enough EMTs, first responders and firefighters, response times would likely increase.

“If you don’t have a good response time, people that come in to start a business aren’t going to start a business,” Savick said.

Albert Lea Township Fire Department Chief Chuck Karl, who testified before a House committee earlier this month, said he thinks the grants would be beneficial, especially for young firefighters.

He said firefighters are often asked to go to training — which is often multiple nights a week — plus other meetings and fundraisers.

“It’s getting more difficult to find the people who have the love for fire and are willing to give up all that time,” Karl said. “We need to give something to entice them to stay.”

If it is approved, it would likely go into effect this fall. If the pilot program is successful, there’s a higher chance it could be put in place for all of Greater Minnesota, Savick said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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