The Municipal Association board of directors approved the 2021 Advocacy Initiatives that encompass all areas of municipal government. Most of these issues require a change in state law through legislation in order to go into effect, but others rely on funding in the state budget.
The Advocacy Initiatives below would require funding in the state budget for implementation.
Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan
In September 2020, the General Assembly passed a law establishing the Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan. This law creates a supplemental insurance policy for paid and unpaid firefighters who are South Carolina residents and diagnosed with cancer. The firefighter is entitled to:
- a one-time benefit of $20,000,
- an annual out-of-pocket expenses reimbursement of up to $12,000, and
- a $75,000 death benefit.
The bill did not include any funding when it passed and legislators did not pass a budget in FY 2020-2021, as the state is instead relying on a continuing budget resolution to fund state government. Cities and towns are requesting the General Assembly provide recurring money in the FY 2021-2022 state budget to fund this benefit plan for firefighters.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Each year since 2016, the General Assembly has included $500,000 in the state budget to fund a groundbreaking program assisting first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
The state-funded PTSD program provides an insurance policy for first responders that reimburses out-of-pocket treatment expenses, so officers and firefighters can focus on getting well without worrying about their healthcare bills. The total funding appropriated is evenly split between the SC Law Enforcement Assistance Program and the SC State Firefighters Association.
With the PTSD program, firefighters and police officers can receive the medical services needed to allow them to get back to work. Connecting those whose jobs put them in contact with mental trauma with all available resources can help them as they work to get back to a healthy life. Cities and towns continue to advocate for this valuable financial resource for first responders.
Local Government Fund
In 2019, the General Assembly passed a bill changing the formula that determines the level of funding for cities and towns under the Local Government Fund. The law now requires the Local Government Fund to increase or decrease by the same percentage that the state general fund is projected to increase or decrease. The change in each new year cannot exceed 5% of the appropriation amount in the current fiscal year.
Because of the fiscal circumstances created by the pandemic, the General Assembly did not pass a state budget for the fiscal year ending 2021. Instead, it passed a continuing resolution to fund the state at current fiscal year 2020 levels. This left the Local Government Fund at the same funding level as 2020. As the General Assembly’s regular session begins this month, legislators will start to debate a budget for FY 2021-2022. Cities and towns will continue to advocate for funding the Local Government Fund based on the new law.