By Paola Tristan Arruda | September 23, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT - Updated September 24 at 6:55 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A bill to help South Carolina firefighters diagnosed with cancer, is one step closer to becoming law.
The state House of Representatives passed the Firefighter Cancer Health Benefit Plan Wednesday. The plan is a supplemental insurance policy for firefighters who receive a cancer diagnosis.
The bill includes a $12,000 reimbursement for any out of pocket medical expenses, a $20,000 benefit upon a cancer diagnosis, and a $75,000 death benefit for the family of a firefighter who dies of cancer.
This would apply to any firefighter in the state, whether they are a career firefighter or a volunteer. It also covers several types of cancers detailed in the bill.
For Lillian Carney, this bill is not only good news, it is personal. She lost her firefighter husband, Josh Carney, to stage 4 Melanoma in 2017. Since then, her family has been fighting to raise awareness of firefighter occupational cancer.
Carney is the president of the ‘Carney Strong initiative’ which pushes education, prevention, and donates decontamination supplies to fire stations. She is also part of a cancer coalition that has been pushing this bill.
“It was just an overwhelming relief for not just the firefighters but the firefighters' families,” Carney said. “It’s not just a firefighter bill it’s for the whole family.”
Supporters of the bill say this is a huge step for firefighters. If the Governor signs it, the state will become the 49th state to have some type of benefit plan firefighters.
William Pesature is the vice president of the SC Professional Firefighters Association. He said many organizations have been working on this for a long time.
" This is something [firefighters] have never had before in this state. People would come down with cancer and they have been told, after 120 days you can’t work anymore and they can fire them," Pesature said. “This is a fantastic start for these people in fire service.”
The bill went through its third and final reading, where a small amendment was made. It then went to the Senate for review and passed. It will now move to Governor McMaster’s desk where he may sign it into law.
A spokesperson for McMaster says he looks forward to signing the bill once it reaches his desk. The law would go into effect on July 1, 2021.
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