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Alabamans urge a grocery tax reduction, a tape shows Trump knew about a classified document on Iran, Pennsylvania puts federal road funds to work and Minnesota's marijuana law will wipe away minor offenses.

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Pandemic Could Boost Case for Iowa First Responders' 'Essential' Status

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020   

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, Iowa's first responders say the state should no longer hold off on declaring Emergency Medical Services an essential service.

That status is something EMS workers in Iowa have sought long before COVID-19. Being declared "essential" would require ambulance service across the state, instead of relying on a patchwork of volunteers, agencies and providers.

Mark McCulloch, deputy chief of EMS for West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services, says he thinks the current crisis will prompt those who have resisted such a move to reconsider.

"The understanding of how important and how critical our services are, I think, is increased," he states.

McCulloch says the lack of guaranteed emergency medical services is especially a problem in rural parts of Iowa, where younger adults are moving away and reducing volunteer ranks.

Having the state approve a plan to guarantee emergency medical services would open the door to funding for EMS in these communities. But some tax revenue would also be needed, a move that some lawmakers oppose.

Stacy Frelund, government relations director for the American Heart Association of Iowa, says even though the state's budget has been battered by the economic downturn, that doesn't mean this funding should fall into a political debate.

"Being able to get them some more resources that they need throughout the state, I think is really, really important, especially now in the time of COVID -- when, you know, there's a lot of uncertainty," she stresses.

And beyond the current crisis, Frelund says rural areas need a stronger network of ambulance service for heart attacks and stroke-related calls.

Just before the pandemic, various bills were being considered in the Iowa House. Their supporters hope they see a revival as lawmakers take a long look at the state budget when they reconvene in early June.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Smoking Prevention, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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