What to Do About a Decline in Volunteers
4/5/2019
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What to Do About a Decline in Volunteers


With fire and ambulance organizations across the state struggling due to a lack of volunteers and financial resources, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees held an informational meeting this week to discuss recommendations to address these challenges.

According to testifiers, the decline of volunteers is having a significant impact on municipalities’ ability to reliably and safely provide public safety services to their citizens. Much of the decline can be attributed to societal and economic changes, such as longer working hours and longer commutes. Lawmakers were encouraged to consider incentives such as tax credits or college loan forgiveness programs to help recruit new volunteers. Affordable and accessible training was also encouraged to remove barriers to volunteering.

These were among more than two dozen broad recommendations offered late last year by the Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which was charged with studying issues such as recruitment and retention, government support, innovation, training and operations, and more. You can read the commission’s report here.

One of the recommendations, which requires insurers to reimburse ambulance companies for services provided even if no transport takes place, was signed into law last year. Lawmakers plan to build on that success this year as they prepare to introduce legislation implementing some additional recommendations.

The problem with volunteerism is increasingly affecting all of the non-governmental pillars of society. Churches, youth programs, civic organizations and the like are all reporting a decline in members willing to lend a hand. Prof. Robert Putman illustrates the extent of the problem in his book “Bowling Alone,” which I highly recommend reading.

I do not generally think that initiating new government benefits to encourage volunteerism, even for services as essential as EMS. State benefit programs can start out relatively small, but easily grow to become a major expense over which the state has little control, or elected officials have little political will to control. Consider that health care benefits were once a cheap benefit for employers to offer to employees. That is not the case any longer. I am, however, interested in hearing your thoughts on this growing problem.
 
 
Economic Outlook

General Fund revenue collections for March were $4.55 billion, which was $76 million more than the Department of Revenue’s official estimate. So far this fiscal year, General Fund collections total $24.7 billion, which is 1.5 percent higher than expected. Keep in mind, however, that the state overspent last year’s budget by an estimated $450 million. Learn more here.
 
 
Park Improvements Dedicated


On Friday at Caledonia State Park, I joined Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Park Manager Earl Hockenberry; my House colleague, Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams); and many others, at the dedication ceremony marking the completion of the new Chinquapin Hill campground facilities. The park is one of our region’s recreational treasures and this upgrade is a major improvement.
 
 
New License Plates for Veterans

PennDOT has added several new license plates to its collection honoring veterans and their service to our country.

The Honoring Our Women Veterans plate costs $35, of which $15 goes to the Veterans Trust Fund to be used for programs and resources that assist women veterans.

The Soldiers Medal, Presidential Service Badge and Legion of Merit plates each recognize veterans’ specific contributions during their service. These plates are available for a fee of $20. Veterans must be able to show that they are recipients of the respective awards.

Veterans from other countries can apply for a Veterans of an Allied Foreign Country plate, also available for a fee of $20.

The above plates may only be used on passenger vehicles and trucks with a registered gross weight of not more than 14,000 pounds.

Motorcycle owners can now get the Purple Heart Medal Motorcycle plate, which displays the words “Combat Wounded Veteran” across the bottom. To get the plate, applicants must be able to prove they received a Purple Heart Medal and pay the $11 fee.

Another new one is the Historic Military Vehicle plate, which is available for antique or classic vehicles manufactured for use in any country’s military forces. The vehicles must be maintained to represent their original military design and markings. This plate is available for both historic military vehicles and historic military motorcycles for $75.

For more information about plates for veterans and how to apply for them, visit www.dmv.state.pa.us, click on “Vehicle Services” and look under “Registration Plates.”
 
 
How Much Do My Prescriptions Cost?

The state Department of Aging maintains a database to help consumers compare the cost of frequently used medications.

The online tool updates prices weekly, lists prices by ZIP code or distance from location, includes pharmacy store details, and lists pharmacies with low-cost generics and those that match lower prices.

You can learn more about the tool by clicking here or calling 1-800-835-4080.
 
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