Deeming emergency medical services as "essential services" in New York could bolster the flagging workforce and personnel shortage facing EMS organizations around New York, state lawmakers on Wednesday said. 

State Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Steve Otis are calling for the passage of the legislation expanding "essential services" to include EMS, a move that would provide those workers with access to health and retirement benefits. 

The proposal is meant to increase the workforce of EMS personnel in the state, which officials have said is reaching a crisis point in some areas of New York. In rural areas, struggling EMS squads have closed, adding to a larger geographic territory for smaller organizations that remain. 

“For years, our voluntary and other emergency medical service providers have been left to survive without acknowledging that they are truly ‘essential’ to our society. In addition, it is outrageous that our first responders can be denied health benefits when we turn to them to address our own medical emergencies," Mayer said.

If approved, municipal governments would be required to provide emergency medical services to their residents as a matter of stated policy, while also creating a minimum standard of care for New Yorkers in the state through regional and state councils, lawmakers said. 

Their bill would have a "minimal fiscal impact to the state."

“There is a staffing crisis in EMT services around the state," Otis said. "We must give EMT services the tools they need to attract and retain the personnel they require. This legislation will be an important step.”