Proposed bill would use student loan forgiveness to address volu - KMOV.com

Proposed bill would use student loan forgiveness to address volunteer firefighter shortage

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Firefighter jackets. Credit: KMOV Firefighter jackets. Credit: KMOV
GODFREY. Ill. (KMOV.com) -

A push is on in Congress to address the shortage of volunteer firefighters across the country.

There is currently a desperate need for volunteer firefighters in Illinois and Missouri. Many departments in the Metro East such as the Godfrey Fire Protection District and Cahokia have volunteers making up all or part of the roster.

“A lot of residents in the community don’t realize that their department is volunteer,” said Northwest Fire Protection District Chief Chester Borkowski. Their department is a mixture of full and part-time.

Many departments made up solely of volunteers, like Cahokia, are having trouble staying fully staffed. The Cahokia Fire Chief says they have around 23 firefighters, about half of what they need

“In the last 10 years it has been somewhat difficult to obtain volunteers, it’s just not as it was 30-40 years ago,” said Borkowski. Borkowski says that’s where mutual aid comes into play.

A plan authored by a U.S. Senator from Montana and co-sponsored by Senator Claire McCaskill calls for someone’s student loan debt to be paid off if they serve as a volunteer firefighter for 10 years.  The bill is still in the early stages.

Thomas Byrd started volunteering for Godfrey to serve his community. He said the bill would help him but he believes it would act as an incentive for others to join their ranks.

Many departments still utilize volunteers as a way to save taxpayer money.

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