Come to their rescue: What EMTs and paramedics deserve a pay raise, not just a parade


There’s nothing quite like a ticker-tape parade up Broadway, a bracing ritual New Yorkers have embraced 206 times since 1886 to exalt heroes. Confetti and applause have rained down on warriors, explorers, athletes, presidents, even the occasional future Nazi collaborator. So last week, we cheered when Mayor de Blasio announced that July 7 will bring a Canyon of Heroes celebration of the frontline and essential workers who kept us alive during the darkest times of COVID. Nightly applause at 7 p.m. was nice; this is nicer.

But for the roughly 4,400 chronically shortchanged emergency medical technicians and paramedics who answered the call then and every day since, there’s something that would be orders of magnitude more meaningful: a pay raise.

EMTs and paramedics are highly trained professionals who for 25 years have been part of the FDNY. They answer the bulk of 911 calls, which are almost 40 times likelier to be medical emergencies rather than fires, and risk their lives as they save the lives of others. During the pandemic, when those sirens — their sirens — were nonstop, more than 500 were infected with COVID, and at least six died.

Yet this workforce, which also happens to be much more diverse and female than the FDNY as a whole, are treated as second-class members of that department. Their starting salaries begin at $35,000 and $48,000 annually, with EMTs reaching $50,000 after five years on the job, and paramedics topping out at $65,000 after half a decade. (The pay is so paltry, many have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.) Firefighters earn similarly low entry-level salaries but vault to $110,000 after five years.

The city’s COVID-induced money troubles were de Blasio’s excuse for why EMTs couldn’t get pay raises in 2020. But thanks to Congress and the Biden administration, billions of dollars in federal aid are now coursing into New York’s coffers.

Give EMTs and paramedics all the praise you can, but far more important, give them the money.