The inclusion of presumptive cancer benefits for professional and volunteer firefighters in the state’s budget moves North Carolina from one of the bottom in the nation in firefighter benefits to top, according to firefighters. News 13 has been following this topic since several Asheville firefighters died of cancers directly attributed to their occupation. On Tuesday, News 13 heard reaction from lawmakers and firefighters.
Included in the proposed budget is a record amount of funding for first responders, including a $15 million supplemental insurance policy for firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
Known as the Fire Fighters Fighting Cancer Act of 2021, the measure included in the budget provides a lump sum payment to help firefighters diagnosed with cancer with medical expenses along with disability benefits if they’re unable to work. North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) spoke to firefighters at the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedic of North Carolina conference being held Tuesday in downtown Asheville.
“So, we know how important it is to make sure that firefighters and all of our first responders get not only the appropriate funding in terms of salary but also funding for safeguards and improved safety equipment and improved early intervention advancements to catch things before it advances and then in these unfortunate cases where cancer develops to make sure they have the resources to get the absolute best treatment they possibly can,” Moore said.
Asheville Fire Captain Scott Mullins, who is also the Local 332 president and president of the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina, said it's "moving" to see the benefits finally be included in the state budget.
"We put so much effort into this. Just thinking about those people who died and fought cancer already and to be this close to getting the benefits, it’s pretty emotional," Mullins said, taking a deep breath and sighing.
Once signed by Gov. Roy Cooper, the benefits will start after Jan. 1, 2022, and only apply to those firefighters diagnosed with cancer starting in 2022.
Click here for more information and a breakdown of the state’s budget.
Click here to find out more about the Fire Fighters Fighting Cancer Act of 2021.