The state House Judiciary committee tabled Wednesday a bill opening a three-year window for workers’ compensation benefits to be provided for all Montana volunteer firefighters.
Senate Bill 29 cleared the Senate Jan. 29 but was not referred to a House committee until last week. The bill calls for all volunteer fire departments in Montana to provide workers’ compensation coverage by October 2022. It’s estimated that a quarter of Montana’s 8,000 volunteer firefighters are not covered.
“The need to consider this legislation is that a volunteer fireman has no backup if they’re not covered here,” said bill sponsor and Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville. “There’s no fund, there’s no pool of money, there’s nothing out there that if a volunteer fireman, say a 22-year-old man, was paralyzed falling off a ladder or something protecting your house, there’s nowhere to go to take care of him except if you really had a workers’ compensation policy, in fact.”