TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A proposed bill could help family members of first responders who have died from COVID-19. This legislation would provide line of duty death benefits if the disease had been contracted in the line of duty.
It comes as the pandemic leaves family members of lost loved ones heartbroken while seeking assistance. This is an idea that has special meaning to the Terre Haute Fire Department after losing one of their own last year.
“What would happen if something would happen to me? Who would take care of my family? This bill is a blessing to know that they will be taken care of,” Jeff Fisher, Chief of the Terre Haute Fire Department said.
Under the proposed bill, COVID-19, SARS, and it’s variants would be included in the list of disease eligible for family members to receive death benefits.
“It really came to light when we had an officer, John Schoffstall pass away early in the COVID experience and really there being some discussion about the death benefits not given to the family,” Senator Jon Ford said.
Ford said he authored the bill to ease the process of grieving families he’s seen first hand. It includes filling out of paper work and making numerous calls and wondering if they’ll be able to even receive assistance.
“This is something that hit our community very hard and especially when it did it was shocking. It scared the community. We all saw the family greiving and you know if we can do something for the family to make it easier, we need to do that,” Ford said.
Fisher and the department said it was an issue they witnessed first hand.
“Sometimes in the situation it’s easy to not have a clear head going through the papers,” Fisher said. “But, the Schoffstall family we take care of our own to make sure we take care of our own,”
“I wish John was here,” Fisher said.
Senator Ford is an ally to the department, according to Fisher. He says he hopes the bill moves forward.
“You know it hits home, it’s one of those things we never thought we’d have to deal with and who knew this would hit us the way it is,” Fisher said.
Before family members would see benefits, it must first be proven they contracted a disease like A.I.D.S., Hepatitis, and possibly coronavirus in the line of duty.
Currently the bill is pending the House Ways and Means Committee.