Disability pay boosted for emergency workers

ALBANY -- Volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers will receive a $200 increase in disability benefits thanks to a new state law.

The measure signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month will allow disabled emergency workers to receive up to $600 a week in compensation starting Jan. 1

Disabled volunteer workers currently receive compensation benefits of up to $400 a week, an amount that has remained stagnant for the past 18 years despite inflation and the rising cost of living, the bill's sponsors said.

“Every day the brave men and women who make up New York’s volunteer firefighter and ambulance forces selflessly and courageously put themselves in harm’s way in the name of serving and protecting their communities,” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The measure updates both the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law and a similar one for ambulance workers so the permanent disability benefit increases from $400 a week, which was set in 1998, to $600 a week starting in 2017.

Sen. Rich Funke, R-Penfield sponsored the legislation in the Senate. He credited the effort to Michael Nicholson, a disabled firefighter from Victor, Ontario County, who for decades has advocated for better benefits for volunteer emergency crews.

“At long last, volunteer heroes like Victor’s Mike Nicholson who were permanently injured in the line of duty will receive the common-sense compensation increase they deserve,” Funke said in a statement.

Firefighter groups praised the new law.

“The passage of this bill will help to ensure that those who sacrificed their livelihoods in service to their communities have the help and assistance that they both need and deserve,” Ken Pienkowski of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York said in a statement.


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