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HCESD11 VOTES TO APPROVE PAYMENT OF “COVID STIPEND” TO CCEMS STAFF, SETTLES DISPUTE WITH CCEMS OVER PAYMENT OF EMPLOYEE INSURANCE CLAIMS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

At its regular meeting on November 19, 2020, the Board of Commissioners (the “Board”) of Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 (the “District”) unanimously voted to approve payment of a “Covid stipend” (the “Stipend”) to the paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers of Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services (“CCEMS”), a contractor that provides EMT and ambulance services to the District’s residents. At the meeting, CCEMS CEO Wren Nealy suggested the District had reneged on earlier promises to pay the Stipend, but District Board members insisted the Board had never voted to approve payment of the Stipend because CCEMS had already received federal funds through the CARES Act for that very purpose.

“I don’t know why they had it in their heads that we approved something that had never been approved,” District Board President, Karen Plummer, said. “We can only approve things at our meetings. Our meetings are public and our motions are out there for everyone to see, and there has never been one to approve payment of the Stipend because we always knew CCEMS had gotten CARES Act money for that.” 

At the recent meeting, CCEMS CEO Wren Nealy argued that CARES Act funds were not intended to be used to pay front line emergency medical employees. But the District is not alone in wanting CARES Act funds used to bonus first responders. Jeremy Hyde, the CEO and EMS Director of Harris County Emergency Corps (“HCEC”), which provides emergency medical services to some of the District’s neighboring communities, recently emailed his first responder employees to tell them they would be getting bonuses, noting, ”HCEC recently received a check from the CARES Act,” and “the HCEC Board along with the ESD [HCESD 1, serving HCEC’s area] wanted to ensure that this entire deposit was passed along to you!”

“I’m just glad our Board came together and voted unanimously to direct CCEMS to use the CARES Act money for what it was intended, even though they didn’t want to,” Plummer stated. “There’s no reason our first responders shouldn’t be treated as well as the first responders in neighboring communities.”

The Board also voted to withdraw two motions it previously made in the hope that it would convince CCEMS administration to pay employee health insurance claims. “We got tired of hearing complaints from CCEMS employees that their health insurance claims weren’t being paid, so we took action,” said District Board member Robert Pinard. In previous months, the District Board voted to deny CCEMS any further funding unless CCEMS paid certain employee health insurance claims, and to require CCEMS to provide a detailed report of insurance claims to the District. CCEMS made both of those motions part of a lawsuit it has brought against the District. “I guess they’d rather sue us than pay their employees’ insurance claims,” Pinard stated. “So, we voted down the motions to avoid the fuss. It’s unfortunate CCEMS is more interested in beating us than working with us to keep their employees happy and healthy.” 

On November 20, 2020, the District and CCEMS entered an Agreed Temporary Injunction Order in which the District agreed not to request certain information about CCEMS employees’ health insurance claims, and not to withhold CCEMS funding as a means of convincing CCEMS to pay health insurance claims. 

2020-11-20 Draft Press Release