New state law compensates firefighters diagnosed with cancer

New state law compensates firefighters diagnosed with cancer


Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill Friday to provide wage compensation for firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer.

The program will compensate firefighters for lost wages utilizing a portion of funds from a fee on phone bills for 9-1-1 enhancements.

“It’s not a moment too soon, in my opinion,” said Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, a proponent of the program.

The state will begin diverting some funds from the 9-1-1 enhancement fees — one cent per month per phone line — into the relief fund beginning Feb. 1, 2017, but firefighters won’t be eligible to receive compensation until July 1, 2019.

Diagnoses eligible for compensation include Kahler’s Disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or any condition of cancer affecting the brain, skin, skeletal system, digestive system, endocrine system, respiratory system, lymphatic system, reproductive system, urinary system or hematological system.

Bartolomeo said the program is necessary because firefighters are exposed to toxins when they battle fires.

“Right now we have so many things in our homes, contributing to the toxicity of smoke,” she said.

Meriden Fire Chief Ken Morgan said firefighters “don’t think about it” when they respond, instead focusing on saving those who might still be inside a burning building and/or extinguishing a blaze.

“At least at this point it’s being recognized,” he said about the increased risk of cancer. Meriden has lost six firefighters to cancer, including Greg Polanski in 2014.

Bartolomeo said it was Polanski’s death that inspired her to start pushing for compensation for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, although her cousin, Wallingford firefighter Anne Lagerstrom, also died of cancer last month.

She said the state needs a “comprehensive strategy” to protect firefighters. Bartolomeo added she supported legislation, which cleared the House but never received a Senate vote, that would ban the sale of children’s toys or furniture that contain toxic flame retardant chemicals.

The wage relief program represents a compromise between firefighters, lawmakers, and municipal leaders, who were concerned an initial proposal to extend workers’ compensation would be too costly.

To be eligible, firefighters must be in the service for at least five years, have not used tobacco for at least 15 years prior to applying for compensation, and have a physical showing no signs of cancer prior to joining a department.

The bill was one of 12 that Malloy signed into law Friday, which also include a requirement that the Department of Children and Families, beginning Jan. 1, provide information to foster parents about the support they are eligible to receive.

Malloy also signed into a law a new process for the reporting of municipal election results that mirrors requirements for statewide elections.

Malloy has now signed a total of 21 bills into law this session and has not yet vetoed any approved legislation.
Twitter: @reporter_savino

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