Legislation would increase death benefits for first responders - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Legislation would increase death benefits for first responders

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Killed in the line of duty. It's a message any first responders' family hopes they never receive.

President of the Mississippi Firefighter's Association John Pope says those men and women often die doing what they love, protecting others.

"In the event of a line of duty death, in some cases that individual may be the only bread winner for that family," explained Pope. "And that being the case that puts an undue burden on the loss of that loved one."

One firefighter and seven Mississippi law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2013. That's never far from Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing's mind.

"You never know when we walk out the door in the morning if we may not return," said Sheriff Rushing.

That prompted Representative Tom Miles-D to draft legislation that would up the dollar amount on first responder's death benefits. It passed both chambers last year but died on a time deadline.

"The governor said this was about public safety," recounted Miles. "And what better way to be about public safety than protecting the ones that are out there protecting us as well?"

The current amount a family receives is $65,000. If passed, the bill would make it $100,000. Senator Bill Stone-D says the state's behind the times.

"The cost of living nowadays has moved beyond what the old numbers paid for," said Stone.

Past the pomp and circumstance of memorials and processions, Chief John Pope says those families often need financial help.

"That $35,000 dollars can mean the difference in possibly being able to keep a home or a child being able to go to college," said Pope. "But it also just gives them that extra support they need in that time."

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