Port Washington firefighters, leaders of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York and government leaders assembled at the Port Washington Fire Department Atlantic Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 on Carlton Avenue on Wednesday, Sept. 27, to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that provides presumptive gap coverage for volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer. The bill unanimously passed both chambers of the New York State Legislature earlier this session.
The provisions of the bill include a lump sum of $25,000 for any qualifying volunteer firefighter that contracts melanoma, as well as cancers of the digestive, hematological, lymphatic, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive systems, 36 months of disability benefits (at $1,500 per month) in the event the volunteer firefighter is unable to work due to their illness and a $50,000 death benefit for a volunteer firefighter’s family in the event they succumb to cancer.
“Our volunteer fire service is a crucial part of Long Island’s culture and community, and New York owes these brave men and women the help and support they need,” said State Senator Elaine Phillips. “Presumptive cancer coverage is an essential benefit for today’s volunteer firefighters, and I am proud to stand alongside them. It is my hope that the governor will sign this legislation into law without delay.”
Firefighters have a higher incidence of getting certain cancers than the general public. Currently, only paid firefighters are afforded additional benefits in the event of a cancer diagnosis. The cost of treating cancer can be extremely high as it includes copays, travel expenses to reach treatment centers and lost wages from not being able to work.
The fire service worked closely with Albany to craft legislation that minimized the cost of this coverage for counties, towns, villages and fire districts, while still providing the help that New York’s volunteers need. The cost of this coverage for volunteer firefighters is minimal compared to the $3 billion they save NYS taxpayers each year.
“I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation which will help our hero firefighters, especially those who worked to rescue people after 9/11 and in their daily work who have since become ill with cancer caused by exposure to toxic chemicals,” said Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso.
This is a benefit that paid firefighters already have. In New York State, paid and volunteer firefighters respond to virtually identical incidents and fires, but only paid firefighters are protected in the event of a cancer diagnosis. The signing of this legislation would give volunteers a much-needed benefit that their paid brethren already have.