HARRISBURG – A tuition and loan assistance program to help the Commonwealth recruit and retain volunteer first responders is one step closer to becoming law after PA House passage. The program was introduced as an amendment to H.B. 1178 which also would strengthen the Fire and EMS Grant Program and provide extra funding to firefighters and EMS workers from the recently passed Fireworks Law. The program, established within PHEAA, provides tuition or loan assistance equal to $1,000 per academic year for full-time students and $500 per academic year for part-time. In exchange, applicants would agree to serve as active volunteers for at least one year before enrolling in an education program and for at least five years after completing that program. Applicants would be required to sign a promissory note obligating them to repay the tuition or loan assistance if they failed to satisfy the program requirements. Other provisions would allow fire and EMS companies that have merged to continue receiving grants in the amounts they would have received had they not merged and would allocate funding from the consumer fireworks tax to be used for firefighting and EMS services.