Southeast Missouri Volunteer Firefighters, First Responders Could Benefit from McCaskill Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

Volunteer firefighters, first responders in 27 Southeast Missouri fire departments could be eligible for education benefits

Fire Fighters Association of Missouri head: ‘Making volunteer firefighters eligible for federal student loan forgiveness would be a powerful recruitment and retention incentive’

WASHINGTON – Continuing her longstanding support for Missouri firefighters and first responders, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is backing legislation to strengthen education benefits for volunteer firefighters and first responders at up to 100 or more fire departments in Missouri.

McCaskill’s plan would expand eligibility to volunteer firefighters and first responders for the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. There are more than 100 volunteer fire departments in Missouri, including 27 in Southeast Missouri. Any volunteer firefighter or first responder with student loans would be eligible for this program, which could pay off the entirety of their student loan debt.

“I’d like to thank Senator McCaskill for her support for the Volunteer First Responder Loan Forgiveness Act,” said Kenneth Hoover, President of the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri. “Volunteer and combination fire departments across the state are struggling to recruit and retain the next generation of volunteers. Making volunteer firefighters eligible for federal student loan forgiveness would be a powerful recruitment and retention incentive and a just reward for the hard work and dedication of volunteer emergency responders across the state.”

“Missouri’s first responders are on the front lines of protecting our families, homes, and businesses—and we’ve got to do everything we can to ensure they can continue to recruit top-notch talent to serve our communities,” said McCaskill, who prosecuted arson cases as a Jackson County prosecutor. “That should include access to the same student loan forgiveness programs afforded other public service employees.”

“I’d like to thank Senator McCaskill for her strong support for this important legislation,” said Kevin Quinn, Chair of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “Volunteer emergency responders donate countless hours each year training and responding to emergencies, and are the sole providers of emergency services in nearly 20,000 communities across the nation. Passage of this bill will give fire and EMS agencies a powerful recruitment and retention tool, while giving long-serving volunteers the ability to have their college loans forgiven.”

Approximately 70 percent of the fire fighters in the U.S. serve in a volunteer capacity. These volunteers spend large amounts of their own time and money training to respond to emergencies within their communities. Volunteer first responders save local taxpayers more than $30 billion annually, and most volunteer first responders serve rural communities where full-time departments are not feasible.

McCaskill—who as a young Jackson County prosecutor was tasked with prosecuting arson cases in the city—is a longtime supporter of Missouri firefighters and first responders. McCaskillpassed legislation through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where she serves as the top-ranking Democrat, to help fire and emergency services personnel continue to have access to critical training, equipment, and staffing resources. Earlier this year, McCaskill met with Missouri’s State Council of Firefighters to discuss her commitment to public safety and the funding challenges they face.

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