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A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
This is National Emergency Medical Services Week; an opportunity to honor the men and women who provide lifesaving services on a daily basis in our communities. Certainly, over the last few months, there has been a renewed sense of appreciation for our EMS workers and it is greatly deserved.
During my time in the state senate, I have worked closely with many EMS providers, both volunteer, and career, on a number of important initiatives – new laws, grant opportunities, and recruitment efforts.
One of my earliest assignments in the senate was as chairman of the Senate Task Force on Volunteer Emergency Services. In that role, I authored legislation creating the state emergency services revolving loan fund. The low-interest loan fund has awarded hundreds of loans worth millions of dollars to fire and ambulance companies, municipalities, and fire districts for much-needed equipment and capital improvements. Upon repayment, the funds are recycled into new loans for eligible fire companies and districts.
Over the years, I have helped expand the fund and increase loan parameters to account for inflation and help departments with equipment purchases and other necessary upgrades. The program has provided tremendous benefits particularly to our rural departments that would be unable to repair their firehouses, purchase rescue vehicles, or upgrade communication equipment without the funds. Volunteer departments run on tight budgets and this loan fund has served as a lifeline to them. Departments interested in more information should review the loan fund guidelines through the Office of Fire Prevention & Control website at www.dhses.ny.gov/ofpc/services/loan.
In 2019, I joined with Assemblyman Chris Tague to introduce new legislation (S.5564/A.7655) that would provide a state income tax exemption to directly benefit our volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers. The exemption, if passed and signed into law, would serve as a thank you for the men and women who give so much of themselves to keep our communities safe.
Along with providing our emergency service volunteers with a respectable benefit, the legislation would also serve as a recruitment tool. Many volunteer departments are struggling to retain qualified members and bring in new ones. Part of the difficulty is the time commitment. Volunteers are required to undergo substantial training and regular refresher courses to ensure they have the essential skills needed. The extra hours add up and for many people, it becomes too much. An income tax exemption may be the incentive needed to boost our EMS rolls.
Earlier this year I co-sponsored a special New York State Senate Resolution calling on Governor Cuomo to proclaim May 18-22 as EMS Week in New York State. The resolution reads in part:
WHEREAS, The Emergency Medical Services system provides valuable service to the community and is the vital link between the patient and other healthcare providers; and
WHEREAS, Approximately 2.8 million calls are handled by Emergency Medical Services providers each year in New York State; and
WHEREAS, More than 50,000 dedicated Emergency Medical Services providers, whether volunteer or career, respond 24 hours a day to calls for emergency care throughout the community; and
WHEREAS, Injury prevention and the appropriate use of the Emergency Medical Services system will help reduce national healthcare costs; and
WHEREAS, A great community is only as great as those persons and organizations that provide exemplary service, whether through participation in voluntary programs, through unique personal achievement in their profession or other endeavors, or simply through a lifetime of good citizenry; and
WHEREAS, It is the custom of this Legislative Body that when organizations and individuals of such noble aims and accomplishments are brought to our attention, they should be celebrated and recognized by all the citizens of this great Empire State; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to memorialize Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to proclaim May 18-22, 2020 as Emergency Medical Services Week in the State of New York, in conjunction with the observance of National EMS Week.
Thank you to all of our EMS responders.