Part of my responsibility as a state lawmaker and public servant is to ensure we are looking out for the men and women who are there for Missouri citizens when they need it most — our first responders. This session, I am sponsoring legislation that will help families of law enforcement and emergency personnel by cutting bureaucratic red tape, so they can more easily access line of duty death benefits during a time of crisis.
Under current law, survivors of a deceased law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, air ambulance pilot, air ambulance registered professional nurse or firefighter who is killed in the line of duty are eligible to receive compensation. My legislation, (Senate Bill 282, 2017) clarifies the order in which survivor benefits will be disbursed, removing any ambiguity and ensuring the fallen individual’s benefits remain with their loved ones.
Whenever a family needs to access line of duty death benefits, it means a law enforcement officer or first responder has made the ultimate sacrifice. At these times of tremendous loss, the very least we can do is help take care of these families by removing any unnecessary hurdles to the benefits to which they are entitled. My legislation is also about honoring the brave, selfless men and women who regularly put themselves in harm’s way to keep our communities safe. It is important our public safety community and first responders know we have their backs.
We must also remember that here in northwest Missouri, and in rural areas throughout the state, many of our firefighters and first responders are volunteers or receive little compensation. Providing adequate funding through the budget process is another part of the equation. I was pleased to see the governor increase funding for law enforcement and public safety in his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, and I fully expect the Legislature’s final budget to reflect the same level of commitment.