AAA says EMS system is at 'a breaking point,' requests $2.6B in federal aid

Private ambulance companies received $350 million in federal COVID-19 assistance in April, but the American Ambulance Association says that's far from enough


By Laura French

WASHINGTON — The American Ambulance Association (AAA) is requesting additional federal aid for the nation's ambulance companies amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

The AAA said in a recent letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that "the 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point" and "without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter a third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and the West," according to NBC News

In this June 16, 2020, photo, medical transports and ambulances are parked outside the emergency-room entrance at Banner Desert Medical Center, in Mesa, Ariz. The American Ambulance Association is requesting an additional $2.62 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds for ambulance services from the Department of Health and Human Services.
In this June 16, 2020, photo, medical transports and ambulances are parked outside the emergency-room entrance at Banner Desert Medical Center, in Mesa, Ariz. The American Ambulance Association is requesting an additional $2.62 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds for ambulance services from the Department of Health and Human Services. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The association requested that ambulance services receive an additional $2.62 billion in federal COVID-19 relief, suggesting that the funds could come from the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. 

So far, ambulance companies have received a total of $350 million in direct COVID-19 relief from the federal government, while hospitals and nursing homes have received more than $30 billion. Several EMS agency officials told NBC News that their share of the $350 million distributed in April has run out, leaving their organizations struggling financially amidst revenue losses and PPE and staffing shortages. 

Major EMS organizations have been advocating for more federal funding for ambulance services since the early months of the pandemic, with the AAA saying in an April 6 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar that $48,000 should be allocated for each registered EMS vehicle in the country. The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) also asked Azar in April to designate $5 billion from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to provide relief and support to EMS agencies and personnel. 

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