Volunteer firefighters would be exempt from serving on juries under legislation proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

The measure was proposed this month amid a shortage of volunteer firefighters in New York and during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it harder to keep volunteer fire departments staffed, especially in rural areas.

The measure would match similar laws in place that allow active duty police officers and professional firefighters to file for an exemption from jury duty.

“Unfortunately, many of the volunteer fire departments here in upstate have been short-staffed for years, and those challenges have only increased during COVID-19, making it even more difficult to recruit and retain firefighters to serve and protect our rural communities,” Santabarbara said in a statement.

“While participating in jury duty is a critical civilian responsibility, it’s important that we put the health and safety of our communities first. I’ve heard from our volunteer departments. The reality is, they are short-staffed as it is, and many of them simply can not afford to lose more members for extended periods of time."