In 2018, the Firefighters & EMS Fund produced our first ever “Fire Referendum Report.” It was a first of its kind look at the success of ballot measures related to Fire & EMS services around the country in the 2018 mid-term elections.
The report was created to better understand and support measures in the United States which affected the operations of emergency services. We focused on local and state referendum and ballot measures so that we may be better prepared to assist the political efforts of firefighters in America.
Now, the report is back.
We are excited to announce the release of the “2020 Fire Referendum Report”.
In total, we analyzed over 80 referendums and ballot measures across 18 states, which means that the 2nd Edition in the Referendum Report series was created covering more ground and analyzing even more data than we first presented back in 2018.
But the 2020 election season was unlike any other in modern history. Beyond the typical politics of the day, the nation was gripped by a once in a lifetime pandemic which turned every aspect of American society on its head.
Within the context of Covid-19, the importance of the referendums and ballot measures which affected the Fire & EMS communities around the country took on a new light.
Much like the referendums and ballot measures of 2018, the theme of 2020 can in large part be reduced to one word: budgets.
Unlike 2018, 2020 was a year in which the economy was effectively shuttered in cities, towns, and entire states. Budget crises which have plagued the Fire & EMS communities for years transformed into full blown catastrophes in 2020. Departments across America were in dire need of emergency funding simply to maintain current levels of operations independent of future revenues procured via referendum or risked the threat of laying off countless employees due to lost taxes.
Of the 86 referendums and ballot measures we studied in 2020, 69 asked voters to increase funding for local Fire & EMS, 11 asked for budget renewals, and 6 asked to expand staffing. In total, voters came through for local emergency services in passing 72% of measures proposed, including securing millions of dollars in future funding, new equipment, and infrastructure.
Beyond the lives lost and livelihoods destroyed, the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic will also be the gutting of a vibrant US economy, translating ultimately to massive shortfalls to Fire & EMS in the years to come, unless relief is provided. It is likely that the drive to raise revenues at the ballot box will only continue to grow stronger as the aftermath of the pandemic unfolds.
Our 2020 Fire Referendum Report provides some interesting analysis that fire jurisdictions will need to know in order to successfully request funding from voters, now and into the future, as the need for funding inevitably grows more urgent.