Auditor General Eugene DePasquale urged the General Assembly to make sure all options are on the table for counties and municipalities that are struggling to meet the cost of responding to Coronavirus.
“I applaud Gov. Wolf for securing a federal disaster declaration that will provide the state with additional funding and resources,” DePasquale said. “We also need the General Assembly to give Pennsylvania’s county and local government leaders greater flexibility in using every available dollar as this crisis unfolds.
“There may be existing funding, such as Act 13 funds, which municipalities cannot currently tap because of legislative restrictions. We should be doing everything possible to make sure local leaders can adapt quickly as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow,” he added.
As another example, DePasquale repeated his call for the legislature to give volunteer firefighters’ relief associations (VFRAs) greater flexibility in spending the state aid they receive through his department. Existing law tightly restricts how VFRAs may spend those vital funds.
“Our first responders are still expected to turn out, regardless of any additional dangers that they may face in performing their already risky jobs,” DePasquale said. “Please keep firefighters and other first responders in mind when considering how to make a positive impact in your community through making donations.”
State aid for VFRAs comes from a 2 percent tax on fire insurance policies sold in Pennsylvania by out-of-state companies. In 2019, 2,518 municipalities received nearly $60 million for distribution to VFRAs to provide training, purchase equipment and insurance, and pay for death benefits for volunteer firefighters.