Barrar Hearing Focuses on Programs, Issues Impacting Military and Emergency Services Communities
3/10/2016
HARRISBURG – Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, hosted a bipartisan and bicameral informational hearing on Wednesday to learn more about the programs and issues impacting the military/veteran and emergency services communities.

During the hearing, House and Senate members received testimony regarding the PA National Guard’s response to recent winter storm Jonas, in which more than 300 guardsman were activated to assist state and local agencies in providing aid to citizens impacted by the storm, as well as the Guard’s effective handling of the papal visit in Philadelphia, the highest security event in the history of the nation.

“Several thousand active duty and national guardsman operated under the authority of a Pennsylvania guardsman for the pope’s visit,” Barrar said. “We couldn’t be more proud of the role they played in keeping Pennsylvania and our visitors safe.”

The committee also received testimony on how the Education Assistance Program was impacted by the state’s budget impasse, a time when more guardsmen than ever before were participating in the program to receive college educations. During the impasse, guardsmen did not receive any of the reimbursements they were entitled to for tuition, books or room and board.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), along with several community veterans’ organizations, outlined current outreach efforts to connect veterans and their families with the benefits they are entitled to, as well as ongoing initiatives to get homeless veterans off the street, and those returning from service successfully transitioned back to civilian life with the necessary financial and medical support.

“The DMVA accounts for less than 1 percent of the state budget, yet it has a critically important role to play in ensuring our veterans receive the assistance, benefits and care they deserve,” Barrar said. “We have a moral obligation to adequately fund these efforts, especially at a time when the more than half of the state’s veterans are over age 65.”

The joint committee also received information on the pressing financial difficulties being faced by the state’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and Fire Department community. As administrative, training and technology costs continue to rise, with recruitment of volunteers on the decline, and without dependable, adequate funding sources, these organizations are facing difficulty in providing services in a timely, safe and reliable manner.

“Volunteer fire companies and EMS organizations save local municipalities and taxpayers billions of dollars,” Bararr said. “It is important, not only from a fiscal perspective, but for the safety of all Pennsylvanians, that we provide adequate support for these organizations.”

Several new funding sources were presented to the committee members for consideration, including revisions to how customers are billed for EMS services and a 1 percent tax on homeowner insurance premiums to fund fire departments. Barrar suggested reducing overhead costs for the states EMS system by consolidating the Department of Human Services’ 14 Regional EMS Councils.

“By consolidating redundant, administrative services, we allow more dollars to go directly to services, where it is desperately needed,” Barrar said. “The committee intends to weigh all options presented to us today to ensure the financial health of these organizations.”

Representatives from the following organizations were present to testify before the committee: the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy), Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission, Pennsylvania War Veterans Council, Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner, Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, Fireman’s Association of Pennsylvania, Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.

Representative Stephen E. Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
717.260.6206
aevans@pahousegop.com
SteveBarrar.com / Facebook.com/RepBarrar
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