ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Advocates in Illinois are pushing to get more financial support for Gold Star and Fallen Hero families in the state, and are hoping lawmakers will pass a bill currently in the Illinois House.
The Line of Duty Compensation Act (HB 5785) would provide benefits for the families of law enforcement officers, members of the armed forces, firemen, paramedics, and other first responders killed in the line of duty.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, Rockford Police Chief Carla Red, and other representatives held a press conference Friday at Rockford Police Department, District 3.
Debbie Wiseman, the Illinois vice president of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), said she knows what families go through because she lost her younger brother, Trooper Mark Tony, on September 20th, 2011, in a high-speed pursuit.
Wiseman said families shouldn’t have to worry about anything else after the death of a loved one in the line of duty.
“If the officer gives the ultimate sacrifice, whether they can pay their mortgage, whether they can get groceries, whether they can afford the funeral cost, I mean they should not have to worry about that, that should be the last and least of their worries,” she said.
The Gold Star and Fallen Heroes Family Support Act is designed to help Illinois’ fallen first responders, to remain financially secure all year round.
Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said first responders go into dangerous situations every day, but the biggest worry they have is ‘will my family be okay if I’m gone?’ He says the new bill will ensure they will.
“They budgeted $5 million, and now they are saying, ‘well, that’s not enough because of all these on-duty deaths.’ It’s sobering. But these people are out there and they are protecting you and they die for you,” Caruana said.
The goal of the legislation is to provide families with timely compensation so there is no delay in their household finances, “to be able to give them the relief and be able to say it will be fine Illinois will take care of you,” Wiseman said.