Believe it or not, 2020 has come and gone and the United States has just passed only its 3rd comprehensive stimulus bill with funds aimed at the possibility of reaching America’s strained emergency services. Eager to leave their own mark on coronavirus response, Democrats have proposed a bill coming in at a whopping $1.9 trillion.
On Saturday, February 27, the House of Representatives passed The American Rescue Act. Included is an allocation of $350 billion for state, local and tribal government relief; of those funds $195.3 billion will be allocated to states while $130.2 billion will be divided evenly between cities and counties.
Despite this seemingly large figure, the question of just how much money will make its way to the fire and EMS agencies who have been critically in need since before the pandemic even began is the most relevant one.
When you consider that there are, at a minimum, 22,501 (3006 counties and 19,495 cities) ways these funds need to be divided, the math works out to just under $5.8 million per jurisdiction. Not every state has a mechanism in place to fund local fire and EMS, so we cannot assume that it is even possible for fire departments to receive any money from those funds designated for states.
In fact, it becomes even more concerning when you learn that the Biden Administration has made it clear their desire is for officials to use this money flexibly- such as offsetting lost tax revenue, keeping frontline workers employed, vaccine distribution, increasing testing, reopening schools, and maintaining vital services.
Without more aid to local governments, specifically for emergency services, last year’s challenges will not only continue to persist, but worsen until congress takes action. Last year, towns whose populations are less than 500,000 were unfairly left out of provisional aid targeted at supporting the nation’s already strapped for cash fire departments.
What will the Biden administration do to give our nation’s first line of response the support it has always deserved? In 2020, public safety officers received $850 million through the Byrne-Justice Assistance program. Notably, fire and EMS received much less than was needed. Calls for more aid from the federal government were frequent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this public health crisis has only made matters worse. Aging fire stations, understaffed departments, and worsening health of the average firefighter have put our nations response infrastructure in a critical state.
Firefighters and EMS Fund urges allies of emergency services to sign our petition to put an end to fire department budget cuts and join the fight against threats to local fire and EMS.