At this time, most Fire Departments are back to some variation of normal. However, the Governor did extend the State Disaster Emergency through February 26, 2021, which means it could be possible to award more points for cancelled events in 2021. We will continue to monitor and keep you updated.
On December 30, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.87, which effectively extended the State Disaster Emergency until January 29, 2021.
Therefore, this means that if fire departments continue to be in a situation where events are cancelled or firefighter responses are being limited, that points could be awarded for January 2021. Since the statute allows for 5 points per month, and pro-rated for periods of less than one month, as of now it would seem 4 points is the most that could be awarded for January. However, we expect a new Executive Order will be signed extending the State Disaster Emergency further.
An interesting note is that the governing municipal board must adopt the resolution by April 30, 2021. If the State Disaster Emergency is extended beyond April 30, 2021, we will likely need legislative relief regarding this deadline.
Yesterday, December 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.79, which continued the State Disaster Emergency through January 1, 2021.
Although this was expected, we now know officially that the time period for which points could be awarded in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic is from March 7, 2020 to December 31, 2020. This also means we know the maximum number of points that can be awarded - 49.
The statute provides that 5 points can be awarded for each complete month. There were 9 complete months (April through December) plus 25 days in March (March 7 to March 31). Regardless of how you pro-rate for the partial month of March, you are likely to arrive at 4 plus a fractional number of points. Since a firefighter cannot earn a fractional point under a volunteer firefighter point system, there is no value in the additional fractional point. Therefore, the maximum points that could be awarded is 49.
That said, we continue to stress that the statue was designed to allow sponsors to grant points to volunteers for events that were cancelled or restrictions that were put in place that limited volunteer responses to emergencies. Therefore, we believe the number of points awarded should tie in some way to the cancelled activities or other restrictions. If the Fire Department cancelled 20 activities in 2020, then 49 points could be viewed as excessive. The challenge is dealing with calls, since that is based on an all-or-nothing 25 points (or possibly 50) based on attending a minimum percentage of the calls. Each sponsor has to consider this carefully with the fire department.
The next potential development we will be monitoring is if Executive Order 202 is further continued into 2021. If this occurs, then points could possibly be awarded for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 as well (again, depending on if activities are cancelled in 2021). The statute requires the resolution to be adopted by April 30, 2021, with that deadline imposed presumably for the 2020 calendar year (though it isn't expressly stated as such). Therefore, if fire departments are forced to cancel activities past April 30, 2021, we may need additional legislative action to create a new deadline for the 2021 calendar year. Otherwise, a practical solution could be for the sponsoring board to adopt the resolution on/before April 30, 2021 authorizing points to be awarded in 2021, but stipulate the actual number (not to exceed 5 per month) would be determined at a later date when it is known what actual activities were cancelled.
For the complete list of posts on this topic, please HERE.