HARRISBURG – Continuing his commitment to supporting the state’s emergency services agencies, Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) announced committee approval of his bill to provide a much-needed boost in funding for training as well as equipment.
The bill was approved by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee on Tuesday.
“Fire and EMS services across Pennsylvania – and especially in rural areas like the ones I represent – are struggling to stay afloat,” Causer said. “We can no longer take for granted that someone will be there to answer the call when we dial 911. We have to act now to ensure our emergency services are able to continue their mission of protecting public safety and saving lives.
“One of the most important things we can do is make sure people who want to serve can afford the necessary training to do so. EMT class costs are approaching $1,000, which is a lot to ask of someone who wants to volunteer his or her time to serve their community,” Causer added.
House Bill 1838
aims to make training more affordable by increasing funding for the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund (EMSOF) and requiring at least 30% of the funding to be used to provide training to underserved rural areas.
In addition, the bill would require 10% of the funds to be provided directly to EMS providers to help with purchasing medical equipment for their ambulances.
EMSOF is currently funded by a $10 fee on moving violations and a $25 fee for driving under the influence incidents. Causer’s bill would increase those fees to $20 and $50, respectively. It would be the first increase in the fees in more than three decades.
To further address training and staffing challenges faced by rural ambulance companies, the committee also approved House Bill 1869, which Causer cosponsored, that would allow the Department of Health to grant waivers to staffing requirements on a Basic Life Support (BLS) service ambulance in sixth- through eighth-class counties. Current law requires that a BLS ambulance be staffed at a minimum with at least one individual who is certified as an emergency medical responder (EMR) or higher and one who is licensed as an emergency medical technician (EMT).
“In some instances, it is extremely difficult for a rural ambulance company to maintain that level of staffing around the clock,” Causer said. “These waivers could mean the difference between an ambulance getting out the door to help someone in need or being forced to stay in the station because they don’t meet the staffing requirement.
These measures aim to address recommendations offered by the Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which was charged with identifying strategies to restore the health of the state’s fire and EMS services. Other bills addressing recommendations in the report were also approved Tuesday. They include:
• House Bill 432
, which would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act by making post-traumatic stress injury compensable under the act.
• House Bill 1448
, which would add a ballot referendum to expand the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP) to include paid (career) fire departments.
• House Bill 1459
, which would create a mental wellness and stress management program for first responders, including 911 dispatchers and coroners.
• House Bill 1816
, which would increase the maximum loan amounts under VLAP by 10% and require an annual adjustment to the loan limits based on inflation.
• House Bill 1834
, which would re-authorize the Fire and EMS Grant Program.
• House Bill 1839
, which would authorize counties to offer a property tax credit for volunteer first responders.
Causer has been a leader in supporting the state’s emergency services. Last summer, he led successful efforts to provide a long-overdue increase in Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance services and was also a vocal advocate for a new law that requires insurance companies to reimburse for treatment provided, even when no transport takes place.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler