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First responders to seek increased death benefits

JACKSON — Law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders will lobby lawmakers this week to increase the benefits for families of first responders who die in the line of duty.

Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, has filed a bill to increase the death benefits from $65,000 to $100,000. Death benefits were last increased in 2007. They went from $40,000 to $65,000.

When a firefighter or law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty, the benefits are paid to a spouse or family members.

“It’s the least we can do to make sure their families may be taken care of a little better,” Miles told The Clarion-Ledger.

State Rep. Michael T. Evans said the legislation is something he can relate to because he is also a Philadelphia firefighter.

“I feel like it should be part of our duty to help them,” Evans said of raising the death benefits.

The benefit is paid by the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Death Benefits Trust Fund, which is funded largely by an assessment attached to traffic violations.

According to the Officer Down Memorial website page, 250 officers have been killed in the line of duty in Mississippi.

The Mississippi Firefighters Association lists 28 fallen firefighters, most of them with volunteer fire departments, since 2010, but it’s unclear if the firefighters died in the line of duty.

John Pope, president of the Mississippi Firefighters Association, said firefighters will push for some other items as well, including a college tuition break and credit for children of fallen firefighters.

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