Pandemic woes: Funding recruitment and retention efforts for rural EMS agencies

Rural EMS has been hit hard by COVID. Here are some tips for identifying funding for recruitment and wellness programs


By EMSGrantsHelp Staff

Recruitment and retention is an ongoing issue for most rural EMS agencies, one that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. COVID-19 also shed light on the critical need to focus on provider mental and physical wellness. With budget shortfalls affecting many regions, agencies and service providers are seeking grant funding to fill these gaps.

The Rural Emergency Medical Services Training Grant is a recent result of the Siren Act, which supports public and non-profit rural EMS agencies so they can recruit and train staff, along with procuring some eligible equipment. This is a great program; however, as with any federal program there are specific deliverables that must be met. Additionally, this program’s funding is relatively low.  Only 27 agencies were awarded in 2020.

Rural EMS agencies need funding. These state and foundation programs provide some relief.
Rural EMS agencies need funding. These state and foundation programs provide some relief. (Photo/Getty Images)

Industry and government leaders have called for increases in funding for the Rural Emergency Medical Services Training Grant  In the meantime, however, EMS agencies continue to experience the long-term effects of a pandemic, and funding needs are immediate. While still considering this grant program, it is important for agencies to be aware of other funding programs available to them. Below, are just a few state-specific examples of grant programs and alternative resources agencies can look out for in their states.

Recruitment and Retention

If your search focuses on EMS funding programs exclusively, you may miss non-traditional programs that can provide valuable funds for recruit and hire EMS personnel. Often, these programs focus on the entire healthcare system. So, many of these programs will list keywords like “Healthcare”, “Health Systems”, or “Health Services.”

For example, the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development Program focuses on “identifying and addressing health care needs while strengthening the local health care system.” Those eligible to apply include small rural hospitals, rural health clinics, and other healthcare organizations located in the Delta Regional Authority, designated counties and parishes. One eligible program activity is the Emergency Medical Services Project, which aims to “create a local coordinate system of care that includes community joint partners working in collaboration with first responders.” This program offers an assessment in identifying opportunities to improve processes and enhance coordination of services.

Other programs include stipends or tax credits to encourage health professionals to serve in rural areas. For instance, there is the New Mexico Health Service Corps Stipend Program. This program “places and offers financial assistance to designated health professionals in rural and medically underserved areas of the state.”

Additional programs include the Oregon Rural Volunteer EMS Provider Tax Credit, which “grants up to $250 in personal income tax credit to eligible Emergency Medical Services Providers who volunteer their services within eligible Oregon communities.”

The South Dakota Rural Healthcare Facility Recruitment Assistance Program offers a payment of “$10,000 to health professionals who complete a three-year, full-time service commitment.” Applications must be submitted by the employer and only three participants per facility are allowed.

Wellness

Throughout the pandemic, responders were met with negative impacts to their mental health and overall physical health and wellness. To retain health professionals, EMS organizations may identify a need to implement wellness programming. When searching for safety and wellness programs, focusing on foundations is key to expanding an agency’s funding opportunities. Many foundations focus specifically on mental health and wellness. For example, the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation lists priorities under Safety/Wellness for “Addiction, disability resources, disaster relief, domestic violence, first responders, food insecurity, healthcare accessibility, homeless support, mental health, public safety initiatives, veteran organizations, wellness and preventative care.” The next deadline is December 15.  

VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company offer a Health & Wellness Grant program for non-profit EMS organizations. This program offers funding for “developing a health & wellness program to prevent emergency first responder deaths and injuries and for cancer prevention.”

Tips and Best Practices

  • Locate your state’s grant administrator for public health workforce programs. Many workforce programs, with a focus on healthcare, are administered through departments of public health.
  • Reach out directly to area foundations, including community foundations. It can take just one phone call to begin to establish a long-term relationship with a funder.
  • Think a little outside the box. Instead of searching for grant programs solely for EMS agencies, search for grant programs that focus on overall healthcare within communities.

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