Staffing waiver bill also heads to Senate
HARRISBURG – A plan to improve the affordability and accessibility of training for emergency services agencies in rural areas was approved unanimously in the state House Monday, said Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint), prime sponsor of the measure.
“With the number of volunteer first responders declining in rural communities, 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,” Causer said. “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.”
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.
Causer also applauded passage of a bill to address staffing issues for ambulance services in rural counties. House Bill 1869
, which Causer co-sponsored, would allow the Department of Health to grant waivers to staffing requirements on a Basic Life Support (BLS) service ambulance in fifth- 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), which isn’t always realistic for a rural ambulance company to maintain around the clock.
“Communities across the state rely on our fire and EMS services to protect public safety, but these organizations are struggling,” Causer said. “The House has been working hard for the last few weeks to advance policies to help address the challenges they face, including funding, training and staffing issues.”
Among the bills passed by the House recently are those that would allow volunteer fire relief money to be used for retention of existing volunteer members and providing incentives for recruiting new volunteer firefighters (House Bill 1673
); make online training more readily available to current and prospective first responders (Senate Bill 146
); and increase the maximum loan limits available to volunteer fire companies and emergency medical services through the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (House Bill 1816).
To further encourage volunteerism for emergency response organizations, we also passed bills to authorize counties and school districts to offer a tax credit toward the property tax liability of active volunteers (municipalities were granted this option in 2016) and created both tuition assistance and higher education loan forgiveness programs for active volunteers.
Learn more about the bill package at PAHouseGOP.com
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