Bill Aims to Create EMS Jobs for Veterans
If a bill introduced in the House in March becomes law, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be required to establish a program to encourage states to provide EMS jobs to recent veterans.
Under the Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act, any state that proves it has a shortage of EMTs would be eligible for an HHS-awarded demonstration grant. The grants would allow states to streamline their EMS requirements and procedures for veterans who completed military EMT training while serving in the Armed Forces. This would enable some veterans to become eligible to meet state EMT certification, licensure and other requirements earlier than they might otherwise.
The bill authorized an appropriation of $200,000 annually for this grant program for fiscal years 2013 through 2017. The funds would be used to determine the equivalencies between state requirements for the education, training and skill level of EMTs and those of military EMTs and to identify what methods, such as waivers for the veterans, could be used to meet state requirements.
The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health in the Committee on Energy and Commerce. There is currently no similar bill in the Senate.
D Block Grows Up
In accordance with the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Law passed in February 2012, which established the public safety portion of the broadcast spectrum, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced in August the members of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors.
With the exception of the Department of Homeland Security secretary, the attorney general and the Office of Management and Budget director, who would be permanent members, the law requires that FirstNet (formerly known as the D Block) be run by a 15-person board selected by the commerce secretary. The law mandates that the board members have experience in public safety and broadband communications technology, and in building and operating commercial telecommunications networks or in financing them.
Samuel Ginn was named chairman of the FirstNet board and was referred to by the commerce secretary as a pioneer and leader in the wireless telecommunications industry. With more than 40 year of experience in the business, he was chairman and CEO of Pacific Telesis, chairman of AirTouch and the head of other related companies.
A full list of board members, with brief biographies, is at commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2012/08/20/fact-sheet-first-responder-network-authority-firstnet.
Edging Closer to Public Safety Benefits Fix
Passed by the House in July, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvements Act provides several new benefits to officers and their beneficiaries. Not only does the bill provide death and education benefits to an expanded list of survivors, but it also extends benefits to people working in private, nonprofit EMS agencies and their families. (As it currently stands, the law provides benefits to volunteer firefighters and EMTs in private, nonprofit fire departments but not in private EMS agencies.)
The bill would also eliminate the $5 million limit on the total annual payments to officers, providing that the death or disability benefits are not given in addition to payments under the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund of 2001.
The legislation passed the House and was sent to the Senate, which is considering its own bill, which differs slightly from the House bill. Both houses must agree on the same legislative language before the bill can be signed into law.
Another Try to Save USFA
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) was saved from its Sept. 30 demise as Congress postponed budget decisions and extended funding through the end of the year as it left Washington to ready for the 2012 election. The USFA is among agencies and programs that could be cut to reduce spending levels.
Fire organizations are still scrambling to keep the agency in business. Several major fire service organizations joined together to endorse new legislation to keep the agency alive and express their gratitude to House sponsors of a new reauthorization bill introduced July 30.
The U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act would extend congressional authorization for the USFA and authorize $76,490,890 each year through fiscal year 2017. Though created in 1974 with a mandate to reduce the loss of life and property from fire, fire services praise the agency as a partner in preparing for all-hazards emergency response through training, education, and data collection and analysis.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. A similar bill in the Senate would provide the same amount of funding to the agency as it reauthorizes it.
The letter from the fire service organizations is at nvfc.org/files/documents/Legislative/12July_USFA_reauth_support_letter_house.pdf.