Senate Passes Economic Stimulus Package Several Provisions Help Ambulance Services!
Moments ago, the U.S. Senate passed an economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The House is expected to consider the legislation in the next few days. As a result of the efforts of the AAA and our members who are also on the front line of the response to COVID-19, we were able to improve the final package.
The package includes several provisions that will provide urgent financial assistance and resources to ambulance service organizations and our employees. The provisions are consistent with requests made by the AAA, although they target a broader constituency consistent with much of the rest of the stimulus package.
The provisions in the package related to our requests are as follows:
Stimulus Package Provisions
Health Care Provider Provisions
- $100 Billion Grant Program: Direct funding to public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and for-profit entities and not-for-profit entities as the Secretary may specify to reimburse for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus. Ambulance service suppliers and providers will file applicants for funding with the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Sequestration Delay: Suspension of the 2% sequestration cut in Medicare funding for ambulance service and other providers and suppliers. The suspension would begin May 1 and end December 31, 2020 with sequestration then extended from 2029 to 2030.
- Telehealth: Authorizes the Secretary to waive any of the current requirements in statute for telehealth services during the emergency.
- Payroll Tax Deferral: Employers including ambulance service organizations starting upon enactment of the legislation will defer payment of their 6.2% share of the payroll tax through December 31, 2020. Half of the tax will be due by the end of 2021 and the second half by the end of 2022.
- Small Business Loans: Provides $350 billion in loans under the Payment Protection Program for employers including ambulance service organizations with 500 or fewer employees. Loans available up to $10 million per employer.
Emergency Responder Provisions
- $45 Billion Disaster Relief Fund: Grants made available under the FEMA Public Assistance Program to state and local governments to address the recovery from COVID-19 including reimbursement for medical response, PPE and backfilling positions. The funding highlights the critical need for access by emergency responders to PPE and other resources. For-profit ambulance service organizations would be eligible for funding through their state or local government. If your organization faces an issue with government officials as to eligibility, please provide them the FEMA Fact Sheet: Public Assistance for Ambulance Services which in 2009 the AAA had successfully encouraged FEMA to issue.
- $3.5 Billion Child Care Grants: Provides funding for childcare programs for essential workers including emergency responders such as paramedics and EMTs.
Not all of the provisions the AAA had advocated for inclusion in the package were addressed in some way. This is likely not the last legislative package that the Congress develops to combat COVID-19 and we will advocate for our provisions to be included in future packages. We will also continue to push these issues through regulatory and other legislative efforts as outlined below.
Regulatory and Additional Legislative Efforts
Coverage of Treatment in Place and Alternative Destination
On March 11, the AAA sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking the agency to wave regulatory restrictions for treatment in place and transport to alternative destinations and for Medicare to cover these services related to potential COVID-19 cases. CMS had initially indicated they do not think they have the authority to wave the restrictions under the 1135 Waiver, but the AAA is continuing to work with CMS to provide payment for these services when provided to Medicare beneficiaries. A press release from the House Republican leadership suggests that this issue is being addressed.
Employee Tax Credit for EMS Training and Uniforms
While the stimulus package includes reimbursement for training and equipment for first responders, it did not include the specific request for an above-the-line tax credit for paramedics and EMTs for training and uniforms paid by the employee. Earlier this year, AAA representatives had met with staff of Congressman Suozzi (D-NY), who sponsored the tax credit language which passed the House late last year, on how we can press the Senate to consider the provision. The AAA will continue to work with Congressman Suozzi on other opportunities to pursue the tax credit.
Federal Benefits during COVID-19 for All Paramedics and EMTs
Several paramedics and EMTs who worked for private ambulance service organizations lost their lives on September 11, 2001, while responding to the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft extended Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) to the surviving family members of those paramedics and EMTs. The AAA is sending a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking him to provide the same consideration for paramedics and EMTs responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The AAA Will Keep Fighting
We will continue to press the Congress and federal agencies for help to ensure ambulance service organizations and our paramedics and EMTs serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have the necessary resources and financial assistance to serve their communities.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of all of our members who contacted their members of Congress in support of relief and resources for ambulance services