CORNING — Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-Corning) is advising members of volunteer fire departments and the community about an opportunity to receive tuition reimbursement through the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY).

FASNY has developed the Higher Education Learning Plan (FASNY HELP) as an incentive to recruit and retain members of volunteer fire departments. This program will provide tuition reimbursement to student volunteers.

“FASNY’s HELP program is a great way for prospective students to get involved in community service while paying for their continuing education,” said Palmesano. “Volunteer firefighters are in demand all over the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and this program could help meet the demand while allowing individuals to give back to their community and secure a quality education.”

“We want people to be aware of this benefit. We believe it’s a great incentive, and we want those who serve our communities as volunteer firefighters to take full advantage of it. These heroes are investing their time, energy and talent into protecting our communities. It’s only right that we invest in their bright futures,” said Association Secretary John D’Alessandro.

D’Alessandro noted that some past application restrictions, including limiting program eligibility to those without a college degree, have been relaxed.

The FASNY HELP program allows students enrolled in community college classes or online courses through Empire State College to receive up to 100 percent tuition reimbursement for up to 80 credit hours while serving as volunteer firefighters and maintaining their grades. According to FASNY, the goal of the program is to help recruit and retain volunteers to fill a shortage left by the loss of more than 41,000 emergency volunteer workers over the years.

To apply, candidates must first complete their local fire department’s volunteer membership process and the Volunteer Fire Department Commitment Form.

“I have said it before and I will say it again, our emergency volunteer workers are the backbone of rural communities, and we must continue to help with the retention and recruitment of these volunteers, who provide such a valuable service to residents and taxpayers,” said Palmesano. “The great partnership we have with FASNY will play an important role in filling this community need, and I hope students and volunteers will take advantage of this opportunity.”

For information on the program and how to apply, visit the FASNY web site; email HELP@fasny.com, Attn: John D’Alessandro, Association Secretary; or call FASNY toll-free at 855-367-6933.

The program was made possible through a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security.