Volunteer fire departments have now been informed by the U.S. Treasury Department that, despite fears, they will be exempt from provisions in Obamacare that might have forced them to slash volunteer firemen’s hours, benefits, or even their jobs.
Fire departments across the country raised fears that they would be classified as businesses employing more than 50 people, a requirement that would force expensive healthcare costs upon them–as it does other small and medium-sized businesses.
Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for Tax Policy, posted to the department’s blog on January 10 that fire departments would not come under the 50 employee mandate.
“An important question arises about how the hours of volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders should be taken into account in determining whether they are full-time employees and for counting toward the 50-employee threshold,” Mazur, wrote. “Treasury is acting to ensure that emergency volunteer service is accorded appropriate treatment under the Affordable Care Act.”
Thus, Mazur announced that the IRS is exempting fire departments. “We think this guidance strikes the appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our Nation’s first responder units, many of which rely heavily on volunteers,” he wrote.
David Finger, director of government relations at the National Volunteer Fire Council, says he is pleased with the new decision.
“It seems like this is going to settle everything to our satisfaction, but we’ll pay close attention to the final regulations and if there is any issue then we’ll raise it at that point,” Finger said. “It’s a good day.”
This incident shows that as America gets deeper into Obamacare, the capricious nature of the law has come to affect everyone and has sent officials scrambling to mitigate the pain for favored sectors of the country.