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Bill Would Help Spouses of Fallen Officers, Firefighters

New Jersey would provide lifetime workers compensation benefits to surviving spouses of fire and police personnel who die in the line of duty under a bill that has passed the full Assembly. The measure is sponsored by Assembly members Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jason O’Donnell, Ruben Ramos and Nelson Albano.

Firefighter (Flickr User Jason Edward Scott Bain)

“These are dangerous professions with potentially deadly consequences,” says Quijano. “Police and fire personnel should have the peace of mind that their families will be provided for if they are killed in the line of duty. The work that they do and the risks they take warrant it.”

The bill provides workers compensation benefits to surviving spouses of members of the state police or members of fire or police departments or forces who die in the line of duty during the entire period of their survivorship, even if the spouse remarries. Surviving spouses of deceased members of the state police or fire or police departments currently receive a lump sum upon any remarriage which occurs during the first 450 weeks of benefits.

“Police and fire work is inherently dangerous,” says Vainieri Huttle. “These firefighters and police personnel have families they have to provide for. In some cases, they may be the main breadwinners. Making sure their families are provided for is the least we can do.”

Under the bill, a surviving spouse of a state trooper or member of a fire or police department who died in the line of duty will continue to receive weekly workers’ compensation benefits as long as the surviving spouse lives, regardless of remarriage.

“Few other professions involve the daily risks faced by firefighters and police personnel,” explains O’Donnell. “This is a burden not just on them, but their families. They should have the comfort of knowing that if their lives are ever claimed by the job, their families will be taken care of.”

The provisions of the bill do not apply to a surviving spouse of a member of the state police or member of a fire or police department who died in the line of duty if that surviving spouse received a lump sum payment or remarried prior to the effective date of the bill.

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