Assemblymember Cahill Announces Legislation Ensuring City of Yonkers Fire Department Access to Statutory Funds

December 22, 2017

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Cahill announced passage of a measure (A.8314 Mayer/S.36670 Stewart-Cousins) modernizing access by the Yonkers Professional Firefighters to funds created by a two percent surcharge on premiums paid to companies based outside of New York or the United States selling fire insurance. Most localities across the State have a “Special Act” that directs how the funds are to be distributed. If there is no Special Act, specific provisions within New York State Insurance Law govern the disbursement. Fire companies utilize the money, approximately $39 million dollars in 2017 outside of New York City, for a variety of services that include enhancing medical benefits for members, offering community programming and conducting safety and health training. These proceeds enhance aid for local departments without bearing an additional expense on local taxpayers. A portion of the monies collected by the State also goes directly to the Volunteer Fireman’s Home in Hudson, New York providing essential revenue for the home and support for members who selflessly served our communities but may no longer be able to live independently.

In the case of the Yonkers Fire Department which received a $632,616.88 share this past year, a Special Act created in 1912 proved to have elements which were no longer relevant to practices undertaken across the State. Assemblymember Mayer’s bill updated the Special Act by clarifying that the funds apply to all firefighters and that the money collected is done so in a manner consistent with Insurance Law Section 9104 and 9105.

In the upcoming Legislative Session the Assembly will undertake a review of this program and ensure that the administration of these funds is done in a transparent and expeditious manner. “This positive action provides clarity to existing practice, ensuring that the Yonkers paid Fire Department has prompt access to foreign fire insurance funds. Working with local partners, Assemblymember Mayer recognized the need to remove any ambiguities from this process. I will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure this practice is streamlined across the State,” commented Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill, Chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee.

“This new law modernizes outdated provisions that regulate the way the Yonkers firefighters are permitted to spend funds collected through the foreign fire insurance company tax. I am so pleased that Governor Cuomo understood the need to clarify and modernize these provisions, and signed this law, giving our firefighters the support they deserve. With the adoption of this bill, Yonkers firefighters now have the clarification and information they need to spend the funds properly, as they always intended, and ensure that the Volunteer Firemen’s Home at Hudson is properly funded,” said Assemblymember Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers), Assembly sponsor of the bill. “I am thankful to my legislative colleagues and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Governor Andrew Cuomo for acknowledging that the outdated law needed to be improved.”

Samuel A. Fresina, President of New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association praised signature of the legislation stating, “On behalf of the approximately 18,000 fire fighters in 106 Locals across New York State, I am pleased to see this legislation be signed into law, which will assure the uninterrupted distribution of foreign fire insurance revenue for fire protection and services in the City of Yonkers. Chapter 499 of 2017 updates an antiquated law from 1912 and makes it abundantly clear that all expenditures must be made in compliance with the Insurance Law. Our association sincerely appreciates the work of the sponsors and supporters of this legislation including Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblywoman Shelly Mayer and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.”

Barry McGoey, President of the Yonkers Firefighters union, noted “The Yonkers Firefighters of IAFF Local 628 are very thankful to State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assemblymembers Shelley Mayer and Kevin Cahill for enacting Chapter 499 of the Laws of 2017. This legislation corrects an ancient and outdated Special Act from 1912 and allows the City of Yonkers and the Yonkers Firefighters to continue to benefit from the Foreign Fire Insurance program. This corrective legislation was long overdue, but we are extremely happy that this provision of the law has finally been updated and brought current.”

This foreign fire insurance legislation is part of a larger package of bills signed into law this past Session shepherded by Assemblymember Cahill aimed at ensuring the State Insurance Law provides clarity for municipalities and continues to serve the public interest.