Pennsylvania Poll Question: Should Paid Fire Departments Get State Loans?


If voters approve, this polling initiative will allow towns and villages with paid firefighters to tap into an existing public fund.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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In an election in Pennsylvania, there is usually at least one polling question about government spending or a bureaucratic process that is sure to make your eyes shine on first reading.

For the May 2021 primary, there is a statewide referendum titled “Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Eligible for Loans.”

The question of the ballot is long and serpentine. But it’s important: your vote could have an impact on the continued existence of fire stations and ambulances across the Commonwealth.

What you will see on the ballot

Do you support expanding the use of referendum-authorized debt for loans to volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance services, and volunteer rescue teams under 35 PA.CS §7378.1 (linked to referendum for over-indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies providing services through paid staff and emergency medical service companies for the purpose of establishing and upgrading facilities to house fire fighting equipment. apparatus, ambulances and emergency vehicles, and to purchase apparatus equipment, ambulances and emergency vehicles, protective and communication equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the firefighters’ missions and emergency medical services companies?

What this means

Pennsylvania generally has two types of fire departments and emergency medical service providers: municipality-run teams with paid staff (like Philadelphia) and volunteer-run organizations.

State lawmakers say municipal fire departments and EMS companies need to update their facilities (think fire stations) and equipment (think fire trucks or ambulances), but local budgets are not strong enough to pay for upgrades up front – and loans are not readily available.

As it stands, Pennsylvania law only allows volunteer firefighters and EMS to apply for money through a state-run loan program.

Read about the other May 18 poll questions:

🗳️ Visit Procrastinator Billy Penn’s Guide for All Applicants

Created in 1976, the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program authorized nearly $ 500 million in loans for volunteer emergency service providers, with a fixed interest rate of 2%.

Voting “yes” in this referendum means that you support the eligibility of paid fire and emergency medical services businesses for loans, in addition to volunteer organizations.

A “no” vote would keep the Pa loan program available only to volunteer services. According to Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, changing the requirements could increase the number of applicants, vying for a fixed amount of funds.

This bill does not increase the amount of money eligible for the loan fund.

Who is for (and against)


  • Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature unanimously supported the measure.
  • Pennsylvania Fire Emergency Services
  • Pennsylvania Association of Career Fire Chiefs


  • We did not find any opposition parties.

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