(KTEN) — Whether fire, police or EMS, every first responder organization needs funds to function. 

The Biden administration has provided almost $2 million to fund 22 first responder projects in rural Oklahoma, but it's not enough.

"One of the biggest needs we have in first responders is our ambulance services," said state Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-District 19). "They're always in need of funding."

When COVID-19 hit, EMS lost traction, with some patients fearful of catching the virus during ambulance transport.

"Nobody wanted to be around us," said Brian Norton, who works in EMS and fire in Bryan County. "So we lost three or four months of billing, and pretty much, you had a lot of ambulance services across the nation... you had ambulance services go out of business."

Norton said while police and fire departments are funded through their cities, emergency medical services in many communities don't get that funding, instead relying on payments for service. 

For some organizations, that's not enough.

"We do pay for upgrades every year," said Norton. "At Bryan County EMS, we pay up to $25,000 every year just for software upgrades for our medical equipment."

The physical equipment isn't the only thing additional funding can help. First responder jobs are mentally taxing, too, and funding could help pay for therapeutic resources.

"I've been with them when we lost some people," said Humphrey. "It's not just the financial part of this... there's an emotional toll as well."

In 2022, a bill co-authored by then-Rep. Markwayne Mullin was introduced for an EMS grant program, but it hasn't advanced.

That leaves a very competitive table for the hundreds of ambulance services that do try to receive any federal grants.

"We've got to cut overtime," said Norton. "Do we not buy a new ambulance this year? Do we wait another year to buy a new ambulance? And so on."

In order to keep EMS funded, Norton suggests adding a one-cent tax that would go specifically towards emergency medical services, just as some cities have for police and fire operations.