WESTCHESTER COUNTY: Program Launched To Help Volunteer Fire And EMS Agencies
Westchester County is launching an innovative tuition reimbursement program to help volunteer fire departments and EMS agencies recruit and retain more local heroes.
County Executive George Latimer is hoping to bolster volunteer ranks by creating the Higher Education Recruitment and Retention Opportunity program. HERRO will provide active volunteer emergency services personnel with tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment assistance.
Latimer said: “Many of our communities rely on dedicated volunteers to answer the call when fires break out or medical emergencies occur. I am hoping that this incentive program will encourage more people to serve as local heroes in their hometown fire department or ambulance corps.”
Volunteers are eligible for up to $6,000 annually in tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment assistance.
To be eligible, a HERRO applicant must be an active member of a volunteer fire department, fire company, fire district or EMS agency for one year. Volunteers must maintain acceptable volunteer activity and training levels as set forth by the County during their entire course of study. An applicant’s department or agency will have to verify that these training and service requirements have been met.
The HERRO program will be administered by the Department of Emergency Services, which oversees volunteer fire and EMS training programs in Westchester County.
DES Deputy Commissioner Susan Spear said: “Thanks to the County Executive’s leadership, the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services is offering tuition reimbursements and student loan repayment assistance to residents who make a commitment to their local volunteer Fire Department or EMS agency. Fire and EMS volunteers play a crucial role in keeping their communities safe. This program is designed to encourage more people to volunteer with their local departments and become local HERROs.”
Other highlights of the HERRO program:
- Earned credit hours must be obtained from an accredited college, university, trade school or highly focused training program. Transcripts must be provided.
- Students can be enrolled on a full-time or part-time basis and must maintain a grade point average of “C” or better – or 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
- There are no restrictions on the type of academic coursework the volunteer chooses to
- For tuition reimbursement, Westchester Volunteer H.E.R.R.O. funds can only be utilized for on-campus (classroom) or distance (internet) learning tuition costs. Other costs, such as housing, books, or school fees, are not eligible for reimbursement.
Board of Legislators Minority Leader Margaret Cunzio said: “As a volunteer fire fighter with the Thornwood Fire Department, I see firsthand how this program can help incentivize younger members who are in college or seeking their degrees or training with a trade school. This will help entice the younger generation to volunteer their services with our volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps. This is a way to thank them for their tireless efforts, the countless hours, and the intense training they experience to remain a member of good standing in their departments. I hope this help to recruit and retain volunteers to help increase our volunteer base within our emergency services in Westchester County.”
Chair of the Westchester County Fire Advisory Board Henry P. Bergson said: “Recruitment and retention are critical activities for our Volunteer Fire and EMS Departments in Westchester County. The HERRO program will give over 50 volunteer Fire Departments in our County an additional tool to attract volunteers. HERRO will be an important component that will allow local Volunteer Fire and EMS Departments to continue to serve their communities with efficient, motivated and well trained volunteers well into the future.”
Chair of the Westchester County EMS Advisory Board David Dawson said: “Volunteering as a first responder in an EMS or Fire agency can be very rewarding. It strengthens your community and most importantly, it saves lives. We appreciate this County initiative to help us recruit and retain volunteers.”
Application forms and more detailed information about the program’s requirements and approval process can be found at: www.westchestergov.com/herro