The HEROES Act Impact on Firefighters
COVID-19 has plunged our society into unknown territory, especially in terms of the needs and requirements placed upon firefighters on the frontlines. The strain the pandemic has put on public safety budgets means first responders, including firefighters, are facing job cuts and lack of access to essential resources and firefighter requirements like personal protective equipment (PPE) that keep us safe as we serve our communities.
Now, government initiatives like the HEROES Act are looking to solve these problems, but what will this bill mean for current firefighters and those looking to pursue the firefighter career path?
What is the HEROES Act?
The HEROES Act is the sequel, if you will, to the CARES Act passed in March 2020. It is a $3 trillion proposal of legislation to provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among its many areas of focus — including unemployment, housing and food assistance, debt relief, and a second stimulus check for qualifying Americans — the HEROES Act allocates $1 trillion to state and local governments so that they can continue to appropriately pay first responders and other vital workers. In addition, $200 billion is designated for providing hazard pay to these essential groups.
How will the HEROES Act affect firefighters?
Both the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs have publicly come out in support of the HEROES Act because of the direct assistance it will provide to our community, including to the families of those who have died as a result of contracting COVID-19 while on the job.
Here are a few of the notable ways the HEROES Act helps firefighters and fire departments:
- $500 billion for state governments and $375 billion for local governments to supplement budgets that have taken a hit during the pandemic, including those for first responders
- $1 billion in additional funding for existing programs, including the SAFER grant program that helps to maintain appropriate firefighter staffing numbers and the AFG grant program that provides PPE, mental health support, and additional training for firefighters
- First responders would be able to deduct $500 from their personal income tax for money spent on uniforms and firefighter continuing education, including firefighter courses online
- Ensures that any officers who die or suffer disability from COVID-19 are eligible for the current Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program
- $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers that allows employers to pay $13 per hour premium pay on top of regular wages.
- Extends the amount of currently available sick and emergency leave for first responders
What impact could the HEROES Act have on future firefighter job growth?
If passed, the protections in the HEROES Act could have a positive impact on the future of firefighter job growth. It demonstrates the government’s willingness to invest in essential equipment, firefighter online training, and benefits for firefighters and their families. It also preserves the number of current firefighting jobs and prevents layoffs, which means those positions will be available for future firefighters.
- Fay B. Details on the HEROES Act. Debt.org. Jun 1, 2020. https://www.debt.org/2020/06/01/heroes-act/.
- Foskett J. How would the HEROES Act impact fire and emergency services? FireRescue1. May 13, 2020. https://www.firerescue1.com/legislation-funding/articles/how-would-the-heroes-act-impact-fire-and-emergency-services-Ay38xCVJJPPOq6fy/.
- IAFF, IAFC urge congress to pass HEROES Act to help keep communities safe. Fire Engineering. May 18, 2020. https://www.fireengineering.com/2020/05/18/488176/iaff-iafc-urge-congress-to-pass-heroes-act-to-help-keep-communities-safe/.
- Zara C. Second stimulus check update: Here’s the latest as the HEROES Act collects dust. Fast Company. June 25, 2020. https://www.fastcompany.com/90521145/second-stimulus-check-update-heres-the-latest-as-the-heroes-act-collects-dust.