BELLEVILLE, Ill. – State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, is backing a plan that will create a continuing appropriation and guarantee full funding for survivor benefits for fallen first responders – eliminating an existing practice that has left some families waiting for help because funds were exhausted during the state budget’s fiscal year.
“First responders put their lives at risk every day so that our communities are able to stay safe,” Hoffman said. “When tragedy occurs, it’s necessary for us to step up and support the impacted family immediately. Grieving families should never have to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and delays, which is why I am supporting an update to current practice to ensure access to survivor benefits is always available.”
Hoffman is sponsoring House Bill 5785, otherwise known as the “Gold Star and Fallen Heroes Family Support Act,” which creates a continuing appropriation for line of duty awards when the appropriation is insufficient to cover all claims in a fiscal year. An initiative of Comptroller Susana Mendoza, House Bill 5785 would end the current practice of forcing families to await a supplemental appropriation from the General Assembly if allocated funds ran out.
The existing Line of Duty Compensation Act provides a death benefit for claims filed within a year of death of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, paramedic, armed forces member and other state employees killed in the line of duty. The act also provides a burial benefit for law enforcement and firefighters killed in service. Spouses and next of kin receive a benefit amount of $375,475 – a figure tied to Consumer Price Index increases each year.
“Families going through their darkest days should not be further stressed by financial issues for months because they’re waiting for the General Assembly to reconvene,” Hoffman said. “First responders are there for us in our worst hours, the least we can do is be there for their family in theirs.”