Auditor Blaha Releases Financial and Investment Report of Volunteer Fire Relief Associations - March 29, 2022

Contact: Donald McFarland | 651-236-0494

Saint Paul, MN – Earlier today, Auditor Blaha released the 2020 Financial and Investment Report of Volunteer Fire Relief Associations.

“For many volunteer and paid on-call firefighters, a service pension is their primary compensation for performing this essential public service,” said Auditor Blaha. “Service pensions are vital in the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain firefighters. This report reminds us of the importance in protecting the pensions of those who protect our communities.”

A volunteer fire relief association is a governmental entity that receives and manages public money used to provide retirement benefits to firefighters and first responders. The relief association is a separate entity from its affiliated city or town fire department, and is governed by its own board of trustees. Relief associations have various reporting requirements with the Office of the State Auditor as well as other state and federal agencies. They qualify to receive state aid based on the completion of these annual reports.

Most firefighters in Minnesota are volunteer or paid on-call firefighters, and perform this essential public service while also having separate full-time jobs. Relief associations pay retirement benefits to these firefighters after they have completed a minimum length of fire department service and have met additional minimum requirements. Relief association service pensions are an important tool to help recruit and retain firefighters in Minnesota and reward them for their service to their local communities.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Relief associations held $678.2 million in net assets at the end of 2020, representing accrued benefits for 15,792 firefighters.
  • Relief associations received $24.1 million in state aid and $5.7 million in municipal contributions during 2020.
  • A total of $39.2 million in service pensions was paid out by 280 different relief associations in 2020.
  • The average lump sum benefit level for relief association members during 2020 was $2,145 per member, per year of service.

View the complete report, which includes an Executive Summary, graphs, and tables, on the OSA website.