A bill to raise death benefits from $200,000 to $375,000 for families of first responders who die in the line of duty passed its first committee hearing this week.
Senate Bill 202 would bring Delaware’s benefits closer to the federal payout for public safety officers of $437,503.
If passed into law, SB 202 would be retroactive to July 1, 2023, and money would be paid to a family at the rate of no more than $50,000 a year, according to the bill.
“While this is no consolation should they lose their person who passed, it at least compensates the family a little bit more fairly,” said Sen. Russell Huxtable, D-Lewes, the bill’s primary sponsor, in Wednesday’s Senate Banking, Business, Insurance and Technology Committee.
Those who receive the benefits include police officers, firefighters, auxiliary and volunteer ambulance and rescue company members, paramedics.and others.
The bill received no opposition from the six committee members in attendance. It’s also sponsored by a wide number of Democrats and Republicans.
Approval of benefits
The same approval was not true in a Wednesday House committee meeting considering whether to allow overtime work hours incurred by police officers and firefighters to be counted toward their pensions in county and municipal plans.
One member of the Wilmington Fire Department said he was against House Bill 39 because of the serious fiscal and operational impact it would have on the department. .
The fiscal note accompanying the death benefits bill said that claims are usually paid over five years. It’s expected to cost the state an additional $40,000 in fiscal 2025, which starts July 1, for pending and two new claims; $60,000 in 2026 for two new claims and those occurred in 2024-2026; and $80,000 in fiscal 2027 for two new claims and new claims from 2024 through 2026.
Debra Lawhead, Delaware’s Insurance Coverage Administrator, said the state has two claims for deaths that occurred since July 1, 2023.
“We are waiting for background information to adjudicate those claims and then they go to a hearing in front of the insurance commissioner to accept or deny them” she said.
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