A bill to help Georgia firefighters diagnosed with cancer receives unanimous passage in the state Senate.
The measure would give those diagnosed with one of nearly two dozen cancers including leukemia, lung, and breast up to $25,000 to help with treatment and other expenses. Those who couldn’t work during treatment would be eligible to receive 60 percent of their pay for up to three years.
City and county governments, which have signed off on the legislation, would cover the costs of the insurance policy.
Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), a firefighter himself, presented the bill on the Senate floor.
“It will hopefully only have to be used for a small amount of people. But to them and their families, it will mean everything in the world and that’s what it’s all about is having their back,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Albers says 38 states have similar laws.
Gilmer County firefighter Brian Scudder, who was the inspiration for the bill, was diagnosed 12 years ago with stage 4 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He says studies show firefighters are more likely to get cancer than the public or any other occupation due to the amount synthetics and petroleum’s that burn in a fire.
“That’s why our cancer rate has gone from a normal cancer rate to 65 percent or higher... at a much younger age,” says Scudder, who has been at the Capitol for each step the bill has taken this session.
The bill was changed in the Senate to cap the payout amount to $50,000 per lifetime. It now must go back to the House to approve those changes.
Dennis Thayer, with the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Association, calls Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of a similar bill last year a blessing.
“We have a better bill today that will provide a real benefit for firefighters that contract cancer,” he says.