Created: February 21, 2020 11:20 PM
ROTTERDAM - Six years after Rotterdam EMS (REMS) was awarded grant money to buy a new ambulance, they're finally getting it. The director said they hit a number of roadblocks along the way.
REMS was awarded the $125,000 grant back in 2014, but since then they've faced years of paperwork, fundraising, and even an audit by the state.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said finally the money has been set aside in the state budget this year.
"I am thankful that the funding is here and it's where it supposed to go, but it's not enough,” Santabarbara said. “The state needs to do much more."
Santabarbara is the chairman of the state Legislative Committee on Rural Resources. He said the state needs to invest in rural communities significantly if Governor Andrew Cuomo really wants to stop population decline in New York.
"That includes schools, that includes our broadband coverage, that includes a number of unique things that we that support our communities and certainly that includes rural ambulances,” he said.
REMS Director Dean Romero said he’s lost track of the hours they’ve spent filling out paperwork to get the money. Romero said they also had to save $10,000 to cover the cost of a state audit.
After saving for three years and completing the audit they still weren't in the clear.
"When we uploaded that [audit] information all of the paperwork had expired then we had to do all the paperwork over again starting from scratch,” Romero said. “Which we did and now and we submitted and then I took a couple months for them to re-pre-approve us. Now that that's done we are in the final stages. I anticipate 30 to 60 days we'll get the money."
Just in the nick of time too, because two of their ambulances recently broke down. Fortunately, one was able to be repaired, so the new ambulance will bring them back up to a full fleet.
Though Romero and Santabarbara said they understand the state has to be mindful of fraud, they also believe the harder is it to get funding, the more difficult it is for rural EMS companies to keep their doors open.
“If the state doesn't do something to secure funding and stabilize funding for ambulance services there will be more ambulance services that close down,” Romero said.
“And what’s left behind is the ambulance services are under further strain now because what's left they have to cover those areas now with very few volunteers with limited resources,” Santabarbara said.
Santabarbara said over the last year over 26 rural ambulance services have shut down.
After REMS receives the money for the new ambulance from the state they'll need to install a few pieces of technology and supplies as well as lettering on the outside. Romero said that will probably take another couple of weeks.
Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.
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