There’s no question about it. Municipal workers have some of the most dangerous jobs around. When others are rushing out of a burning building, firefighters are rushing in. When news spreads of an unstable individual wielding a gun, everyone in the area flees for safety; except the law enforcement officers who rush to the scene. Public works employees set up work zones in busy streets or enter confined spaces to keep our water and sewer services running smoothly.
In today’s financial environment, municipal workers are doing all of these vital services with less funding and diminished manpower. To assist member municipalities, the boards of the South Carolina Municipal Insurance Trust and the South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund recently renewed funding for their popular grant programs. "Funding these programs provides a valuable benefit to our members and helps reduce liabilities for the programs as a whole," said Harvey Mathias, director of Risk Management Services. "We
see this as an investment that
will reap dividends in the future,also helping to ease the immediate financial burdens being placed on our members’ budgets."
Member municipalities appreciate the grant programs and the boards of trustees’ responsiveness to member needs. Nolan Wiggins, city manager of Abbeville, stated, "The grants that the City of Abbeville has received through our participation in SCMIT have helped us purchase equipment for our employees that is needed to promote a safe workplace for them. Too often, especially in lean fiscal years, spending on personal protective equipment and other safety related items is an easy thing to cut. These grants allow us to bridge those budget shortfalls and to avoid compromising our employees’ safety to save a dollar."
SCMIT and SCMIRF designed the grants to assist their members financially in purchasing products or equipment that may help in reducing the frequency and severity of claims. The funding is available on a first-come, first–served basis, with each member eligible to receive half the cost of a covered item, up to a maximum of $2,000 per year. Over the years, the various RMS grants have disbursed a combined total of more than $757,000.
SCMIRF created the Law Enforcement Liability Reduction Grant to cover the purchase of TASERS, TASER cameras, body cameras and in-car video cameras. The board expanded the program this year to assist with the cost of policy audits. Since the grant began in 2004, 62 members have received more than $203,000 in reimbursements.
SCMIT provides workers’ compensation coverage for municipalities and assists members through three grant programs. The Soft Body Armor Cost Sharing Program began in 1999. Since then, 71 members have received assistance with purchasing 1,369 vests. The Fire Service Equipment Cost Sharing Program covers items such as turnout gear, air packs and PASS devices. Only in its third year, the program has distributed more thank $149,000.
The newest grant is the Public Works Equipment Cost Sharing Program. Created in 2010, this grant covers a variety of safety equipment such as traffic control devices, cones, directional equipment, signage, trench boxes, air monitoring devices, retrieval equipment, reflective vests and hard hats. Forty members received more than $55,000 last year.
Linda Long, clerk/treasurer/interim administrator of Pageland, said "We have taken advantage of the grant programs since the Soft Body Armor grant was first introduced back in 1999. We appreciate how easy the process is and how the programs have added grants over the years to help us purchase needed equipment. If it weren’t for these grant programs, we would not have been able to buy needed personal protective equipment and other safety items for our employees."
"We are unique in that our programs exist solely to serve local government needs," said Mathias. "We recognize the constraints placed on our members and seek to meet their needs to provide safe working environments for their employees while providing necessary services to their residents. Because we are a self-funded pool instead of a commercial agency, we can provide these pro-active, value-added services."