Heroes' families among those 'held hostage' by state crisis, Harris contends
Families that lost heroic loved ones are just some of the victims of Illinois’ budget impasse, Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) told a House panel on Wednesday.
“It’s not just those seven families that are being held hostage," he said. "It’s those social service providers, those individuals that rely on social service dollars. It’s the medical providers. They’re all, in essence, held hostage."
Harris was speaking at an Illinois House Appropriations General Services Committee hearing about the state's inability to fund the Illinois Line of Duty Compensation Act (ILODCA).
Patrick Devaney, president of Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, presented the case to the panel, asserting that those seven families are still waiting for their compensation in accordance with the act.
“It is more than unfortunate that these seven families have not gotten their just claims,” Harris said. “They are entitled to it; they should get it. I don’t think there is disagreement about that.”
Devaney said the ILODCA provides vital assistance to the family members of the departed.
“It is a very important benefit to us because the only way one qualifies for it is if they are killed in the line of duty while protecting their communities,” Devaney said. “It provides a very modest benefits for the families -- a onetime benefit that includes burial expenses. You can understand and anticipate how frustrated and angry our membership is that we have member who we’ve lost – and we went through that emotional toll at the local level with the family and continue to support them – [but the families] are not being compensated by the state as they are due.”
ILODCA provides a onetime payment of $351,383 to surviving spouses of firefighters or police officers as well as $10,000 for burial expenses, according to Devaney.
As the state faces a possible third year without a budget, many vital services have experienced funding and personnel cuts, leaving many unable to function.
Harris told Devaney that the state has let his group down.
“We didn’t make any appropriations for that, so now those dollars are going out, and because they are going out and we don’t have an appropriations, your seven families don’t receive the dollars they should be getting,” Harris said.
Harris thanked Devaney for a human light back into the committee.
“This is one of those issues where there is a long line of people that are waiting for those dollars," Harris said. "All of them -- in my mind for the most part -- are justified in getting what is owed to them. This frustrating, maddening budget impasse is both hurting them as well as hurting the state. I appreciate you bringing forward and highlighting these individuals, which quite frankly we sometimes lose sight of. Thank you.”
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