SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Tammy and Brian Pierce were promised death and burial benefits under Illinois’s Line of Duty Compensation Act after their son Brian Jr. died while working as a police officer, but nine months after his death, they hadn’t gotten a cent.
They went to the person in charge of writing the checks for the state, Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Now, she is pushing a bill that would make sure no other families have to wait.
“That’s because the appropriation to the Court of Claims — the state agency responsible for processing such awards — was exhausted,” the comptroller recalled. “This meant that no additional vouchers can even be sent to me at the Illinois Office of Comptroller until the legislature approved additional spending limits for the program.”
The total number of claims from the Line of Duty Compensation Act for Fiscal Year 2022 was 26, double what was originally budgeted. The General Assembly did approve of more funding for families like the Pierces, but Mendoza’s bill gives her the authority to give the benefits without legislative approval.
“Let us honor fallen first responders and armed-service members by limiting the suffering of the families they leave behind,” Mendoza said.
Her bill would change that by ensuring a continuing line of appropriations for the Line of Duty Compensation Act has been filed.
Legislators supporting the bill say it’s important to honor not just first responders, but also their families’ sacrifices.
“When we talk about law enforcement and firefighters and service professionals, a lot of times we don’t talk about the family, the holidays away, the emergency call-ins, the events within their schools with their kids that they miss so they can make sure that they’re taking care of us,” Rep. Harry Benton (D-Plainfield) said. “We need to make sure that we’re taking care of their families as well, if they make the ultimate sacrifice, and make sure that they’re not wrapped up in red tape when they lose a loved one.”
The state’s chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors contact families within hours of the death to help make funeral arrangements and comfort the family. They support the bill.
“No family should not be able to honor their officer because they can’t afford it,” Debbie Wiseman, president of Illinois C.O.P.S, said.
Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) and Sen. Donald DeWitte (R-West Dundee), have also signed on to co-sponsor the bill.