In West New York, Menendezes and Pascrell promote expanded firefighter benefits bill


U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was joined by U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-9) and Rob Menendez (D-8) at the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue Headquarters in West New York to promote an expanded firefighter benefits bill.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act will provide federal benefits for occupational cancer under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to firefighters, first responders, and their families.

On March 6th, President Joe Biden (D) endorsed the legislation and called on Congress to get the bill to his desk.

“Being mayor is the toughest job in America. Everyone knows you. Everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone wants to let you know their opinion,” Senator Menendez said.

“When I was a [Union City] mayor… we created the Regional Fire effort. It made such a great change to our communities. This legislation … will strengthen a crucial safety net for our first responders and their families to rely upon. It would recognize at long last the elevated risk of cancer in firefighters while providing them with presumptive benefits under federal law. The presumption is on their behalf. Not that they have to prove it.”

The PSOB program provides a one-time federal death and disability benefit payment of $422,035 to first responders who die or are permanently disabled in the line of duty and monthly education assistance of $1,401 for their children or spouse.

While medical conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and COVID-19 are presumed to be line-of-duty deaths for the purposes of PSOB, occupational cancer is not.

“Every day, thousands of firefighters suit up and put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. The physical and mental stress of the profession are tangible,” declare Pascrell.

“Yet some of the facts of life do not come to light until years after.”

He also said that Biden has already signed a bill into law to help first responders to expand the disability definition to include more benefits for more of them.

“We’re going to fight for this and get this done. This bill guarantees first responders and their families get the benefits without delays or red tape. Firefighters face a significantly higher risk of developing cancer from exposure to carcinogens: It’s science,” Pascrell added.

Pascrell also recognized that Eduardo Diaz, a captain at NHRF&R, died from cancer six years ago. His son was in attendance for the event as well.

“Our firefighters and first responders selflessly put their communities ahead of themselves, often sacrificing their health and safety while doing so,” explained Congressman Rob Menendez.

“That is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act, which would finally provide federal death and disability benefits to men and women who are stricken by cancer as a result of line-of-duty exposures. I want to thank Congressman Pascrell for his leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with him to pass this important legislation.”

“This act closes a significant loophole in the benefits awarded to our firefighters.”

Professional Firefighter of New Jersey President Steve McConlogue noted cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters and thanked them for their support with this legislation.

He also lauded the federal lawmakers for helping firefighters across the secure new equipment and refurbish fire houses via federal grants.

“It’s kept our rigs staffed. It’s kept our departments open. The PFANJ are eternally grateful,” he said.

The nembers of Congress also highlighted various congressional initiatives to support and protect fire professionals, including the Fire Grants and Safety Act (S.870) which would reauthorize FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, and the U.S. Fire Administration.

“As a mayor, you witness firsthand the selfless acts of bravery of our firefighter’s rescue squads,” added West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez.

“With recent big fires, we had in this area, as recent as last night, serve as a reminder of how in debt we are as a community and how fortunate we are to have an org like North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue. They need and deserve constant support from the federal government.”

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  1. Another ridiculous ordinance by the City. Does anyone on the Council think about what they are voting on? The direction the City has taken under Fulop will eventually ruin all the good that has been accomplished in the last 20 years. And now another tax increase! Where is the management aspect of running a city? Or do we just keep hitting the residence for money to make up for mistakes?