Wisconsin uses $22 million in federal relief funds to expand emergency response programs

536

Local first responder departments will be able to use the funds for 'whatever help they need the most.'

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced on Tuesday that the state will invest $22 million in local fire stations and emergency medical services, using funds from the American Rescue Plan.

"We have been working hard to invest in projects that will help build stronger, healthier communities across our state. From De Pere to Waupun, we're excited to continue this important work by making sure our rural communities have adequate emergency response options, updating our fire stations, facilities, and services," Evers said in a statement.

The Evers administration said the funds will be available for local first responder departments for "whatever help they need the most," whether that means training first responders, increasing support for staff, or purchasing new ambulances and medical equipment. Grants will also be available to public ambulance service providers, including volunteer fire departments, nonprofits, counties, and municipalities.

Wisconsin's Neighborhood Investment Fund and Healthcare Infrastructure Grant program, both funded by the American Rescue Plan, will administer the grants.

Under the program, the city of Altoona will receive $1.1 million to expand a public safety garage with drive-through health services, Evers said in a release. The city of Oconto Falls will receive $7 million to expand fire stations, and the city of Peshtigo will get more than $3 million to construct a pair of EMS stations.

President Joe Biden signed the plan into law on March 11, 2021, after Congress passed it with only Democratic votes. All of Wisconsin's Democratic members of Congress voted for the legislation and all Wisconsin Republicans voted against it.

Last August, Evers announced an overall earmark of $250 million from the Rescue Plan for the two programs to help Wisconsin neighborhoods recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor said the state would also use the federal dollars to address equity gaps, noting investments in transit, childcare, housing, and healthcare access in underserved communities.

Funds for the newly announced first responder initiative come from these earmarks.

In April, state officials announced that Wisconsin would use $6 million from the Rescue Plan funds to help public health organizations whose resources have been stretched thin due to the pandemic. Four Wisconsin groups will use the money to recruit more than 200 members of AmeriCorps, the federal agency that provides nonprofits with volunteer workers.

In Wisconsin, the recruited AmeriCorps members will work for Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, Wisconsin Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, United Way Fox Cities, and Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation to provide communities with health care support.

In addition to the Rescue Plan money, Wisconsin has also benefited from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law last November. Infrastructure funds are being used to replace Wisconsin's diesel buses with electric ones and to clean up toxic Superfund sites, among other projects.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.