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Police and fire gear from Pennsylvania might help protect people of war-torn Ukraine

  • Ben Wasserstein/WITF
The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg.

 Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer

The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg.

Supplies in Ukraine have been strained ever since Russia invaded some 16 months ago, and in an active warzone, supply shortages could mean life or death.In Pennsylvania, state House lawmakers want to help communities donate surplus police and fire gear to Ukrainians.

A bill now under consideration would allow local governments to donate protective gear – -such as protective vests and firefighting jackets — bought through grants without paying a surcharge based on the value of the donation.

“Really, it’s a common-sense bill. It’s saying instead of throwing it in the garbage, we’re gonna give it to somebody that can benefit from it,” lead sponsor Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale said.

Although the gear, which consists of such things as police vests and firefighter gear, tends to be purchased through grants funded by taxpayers, after around five years it would either be used in training or a backup capacity or simply tossed in the garbage, Rigby said.

“If I’m in Ukraine, a seven-year-old vest is better than nothing,” Rigby said. “Same with fire gear and bunker gear.”

Rigby says donating “may actually save some lives.”

The bill intends for protective gear, not weapons or vehicles, to be sent over, Rigby said.

Robert Freeman is a Democrat from Easton who said he co-sponsored the bill with Rigby, a Republican, because it’s “simply the right thing to do.”

“This is a way for those municipalities that feel they have surplus property they can dispose of and benefit the Ukrainian people to be able to do so without receiving a surcharge for the, for the actual disposal of the property,” Freeman said.

The bill passed the House Local Government Committee June 14.

“I’m hoping that given the nature of the subject and the broad-based support the American people have shown for the people of Ukraine, I’m hoping it can come up for a vote as soon as possible,” Freeman said.

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