COVID-19 Relief Package Includes Support for Fire and EMS

On March 11, President Biden signed H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, into law. The bill spends approximately $1.9 trillion, mostly targeted at providing COVID-19 relief, including $350 billion in aid to state and local governments as well as $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

H.R. 1319 also provides $200 million in FY 2021 funding for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, and $100 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. Unlike the $100 million in AFG funding provided in last year’s CARES Act, H.R. 1319 does not limit grant spending to COVID-specific PPE and related supplies.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act includes language enabling ambulance services to be reimbursed by Medicare for treatment in place (TIP). Specifically, the bill grants the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to waive the requirement, “…that an ambulance service include the transport of an individual to the extent necessary to allow payment for ground ambulance services furnished in response to a 911 call (or the equivalent in areas without a 911 call system) in cases in which an individual would have been transported to a destination permitted under Medicare regulations but such transport did not occur as a result of community-wide EMS protocols due to the public health emergency…” The TIP waiver language was added to H.R. 1319 by the Senate after the National Volunteer Fire Council and other national EMS organizations asked the Senate to include it in COVID relief legislation.