PANAMA CITY, Fla.- Florida’s Chief Financial officer visited Bay County with some good news for firefighters.
After years of pushing for a bill regarding cancer benefits for firefighters, it’s finally been signed in the most recent legislative session.
Contracting cancer on the job is a major concern for firefighters, but a new bill recently signed into law can help them with the recovery process.
In 2016, 70% of firefighter deaths in the line of duty were cancer-related. “It’s devastating enough to go home and tell your family I have cancer and then not have a financial backup plan,” said Panama City Fire Chief, Alex Baird.
Panama City fire chief, Alex Baird, said they recently lost a fellow firefighter to cancer about 4 years ago, and another person is currently battling kidney cancer.
He said the community doesn’t realize that the dangers of the job go beyond the flames. “They don’t realize the dangers in that fire other than the fire because it’s not the fire that can hurt you… it’s the chemicals and the smoke that’s in the fire that can hurt us,” said Baird.
For two years, CFO Jimmy Patronis has been working around the clock to get the cancer benefits bill signed. Currently, firefighters have government-sponsored health insurance that usually comes with pretty hefty deductibles, but this bill would help ease their mind when it comes to financial needs.
“This particular bill will then pay for deductible dollars and also pay for some monies to go towards off time from work due to maybe downtime from treatment where they’re not able to show up for the job,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis.
City leaders said this bill is a huge win for our firefighters. “We have to keep them healthy and safe in order for them to keep us healthy and safe. So it’s a really big deal and it’s a long time coming,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki.
The bill goes into effect on July 1st.