HARRISBURG - Legislation authored by Rep. Matt Baker (R-Bradford/Tioga) increasing loan amounts available for volunteer fire and ambulance companies under the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP) was recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The program provides loans at a fixed two percent interest rate to volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue companies for the acquisition, rehabilitation or improvement of apparatus, facilities and equipment.

"The Volunteer Loan Assistance Program is a valuable program that allows fire and EMS companies to obtain the funding needed to purchase equipment and update their facilities in order to better serve the community," said Baker. "Unfortunately, the program's loan amounts have not been properly updated in more than 20 years, which put companies at a disadvantage when trying to use the old loan amounts to purchase equipment and vehicles at today's prices."

The new law increases the amounts for loans as follows:

Establishing and modernizing facilities: increased from $200,000 to $400,000, or 50 percent of the total cost, whichever is less.

Purchasing apparatus, ambulances, etc.: increased from $100,000 to $200,000 or 50 percent of the total cost, whichever is less.

Aerial apparatus: increased from up to $150,000 to up to $300,000.

Ambulance or light duty rescue vehicle: increased from up to $50,000 to up to $100,000.

Watercraft rescue vehicle: increased from up to $15,000 to up to $30,000 or 50 percent of the cost of the ambulance or rescue vehicle, whichever is less.

Purchasing protective equipment, etc.: increased from up to $10,000 to up to $20,000.

Repair of apparatus equipment: increased from $1,000-$35,000 to at least $2,000, not more than $70,000 or 80 percent of cost, whichever is less.

Purchasing used apparatus: increased from $60,000 to $120,000 or 80 percent of cost, whichever is less.

PennFirs hardware and software, one-time only: increased from up to $2,000 to up to $4,000 or 75 percent of cost, whichever is less.

Loan amounts may exceed limits by $20,000 (increased from $10,000) for the purchase of firefighting apparatus, ambulance or rescue vehicles manufactured or assembled in Pennsylvania.

Act 129 of 2013 also allows companies that merge or consolidate to hold a combined total of up to 10 loans for a period of 10 years.

"This update to the law was sorely needed in order to help these essential volunteer organizations remain operational," said Baker. "Our volunteer fire and EMS organizations accomplish and perform a great deal with few financial resources, and too many are struggling on a daily basis financially. This increase in the VLAP will be a boon to our volunteer rescue organizations."

Submitted by Rep. Matthew Baker's office.