One state representative hopes to pass a bill that compensates families of first responders who die from COVID-19

Published: Sep. 19, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - One state representative is working on a bill that would compensate the families of officers who die from COVID-19.

Right now, when a first responder dies in the line of duty, their family is given $100,000.

But it’s unclear whether that state statute considers dying from COVID-19 as a line of duty death.

That’s why Representative Tom Miles wants to make sure the families of first responders who die from the virus are covered.

COVID-19 is currently the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers nationwide.

A recent report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said 71 officers died of COVID-related causes in just the first half of this year. That’s more than firearm and traffic-related incidents combined.

“You never know who you’re dealing with, or you may have to deal with somebody who’s COVID positive, which puts that officer in harms way,” Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said.

Rushing said he’s felt the impacts of the virus.

“I lost a corrections officer early on last year from COVID that he caught in the line of duty,” he said. There’s been several, including two sheriffs across the state this year.”

Within the last two months, Mississippi lost Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance and Jackson Police Sergeant Bryan Pippin to COVID-19.

“We’re losing people left and right to it in our field,” Rushing said.

Representative Miles said the families of police officers, first responders, and healthcare workers deserve compensation for those lost to COVID-19.

“It’s the least that we can do to honor their memories since they did put their lives on the line to try to keep us all healthy and safe during this time period,” Miles said.

With the nearly $2 billion dollars heading Mississippi’s way through the American Rescue Plan Act, Miles has a plan for how to fund the measure.

“We would take the federal money that the state is receiving from the recovery act to pay for the benefits where it doesn’t cost the state anything, but it also makes these families whole at the same time,” he said.

Sheriff Rushing agrees with Miles. He expressed how dangerous it is being a first responder, especially during these pandemic times.

“The families are the ones that are in the need of benefits,” Rushing said. “They lost a loved one that was doing their job, and they should be taken care of.”

Since the time of the non-profit’s report, the number of officers who’ve died from COVID-19 has gone from 71 to over 130.

Representative Miles said he’ll work to compensate the families of these fallen first responders when legislators return to the Capitol in January.

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